You could do a lot worse than DOA: Dead or Alive, believe me. Is it any good? No, not really. Is it fun? Yeah, sort of, in the splashy, stupid way the videogame it’s based on is also fun, and at least it has the sense to recognize it’s not meant to be taken the slightest bit seriously. Fine by me. Not every movie has to be The Accidental Tourist.
There was a time when I was something of a Bad Movie celebrant. Then over time I lost my taste for seeking out entertaining crap simply because a) it was, after all, crap and b) with the sheer number of genuinely good and criminally underappreciated movies out there that can now find the audiences they deserve, thanks to DVD, why bother with the bottom of the barrel? But every now and then you just got to see what sinks to the bottom, if only to have some idea of how bad it can truly get.
Continuing the tradition (I'm not sure that's the right word) of Mortal Kombat,
Dead or Alive is a carpet-bombing of Asian-tinged martial-arts action spectacles...
And trust me, DOA is nowhere nearly as bad as it can truly get. It’s 2007’s Mortal Kombat, another video game adaptation I will ashamedly confess to being a fan of even when I know it’s not actually any good either. But that movie had energy and style and humor, and even a certain number of knowing in-jokes for fans of the game, like the wink-wink conclusion of the fight between Johnny Cage and Skorpion. DOA has flashes of cute humor and plenty of action, but mostly tons of undulating skin, so much so that I suspect a change of title to T&A was only nixed for marketing reasons. It doesn’t help that some of the best faces in the movie are also some of the worst performers. Case in point: Devon Aoki, who I will watch in just about anything even if the way she delivers her lines in this thing is enough to make a whole platoon of acting coaches throw themselves to their deaths from the top of the Hollywood sign.
That’s the main reason to see the movie: the girls. We get ninja princess Kasumi (Aoki), her guardian shinobi Ayane (Natassia Malthe, laughably miscast), jewel thief Christie Allen (Holly Valance), and professional lady-wrestler Helena Douglas (Sarah Carter). All have been invited to that most hoary of fighting-game standby plot lines, the Ultimate Fighting Championship Held In Secret. Off they go to a secluded island lorded over by none other than Eric Roberts, whose plan is to harvest everyone’s fighting skills and then sell them to the highest bidder. Mayhem ensues (and ensues, and ensues).
...all of which ranks somewhere around the level of a guilty pleasure, depending on
how guilty you're inclined to feel after spending money on something like this.
My eyes popped slightly when I read the credits: the script was by J.F. Lawton, he who delivered another guilty pleasure, The Hunted, that I ended up having a soft spot for if only because he had the good taste to cast Yoko Shimada as a modern-day samurai princess. And the man behind the camera was Cory Yuen, he who gave us the stupefying Tekken rip-off The Avenging Fist that almost got its plug pulled by Namco. But he also gave us The Transporter, another example of fun high-end action junk without a brain in its head or a care in the world, and one that actually worked.
So now you know. As far as brainless video-game adapted action-movie spectacles go, DOA isn’t half-bad. Now, if you’re wondering how you could do any worse, I have two words for you: Uwe Böll.