Before we start, do we actually have any D.O.A. fans in the house? Not the film, God no – no, I mean do we have any die hard fans of the also-ran, one-on-one, beat-em-up that notoriously spent as much time and care animating the correct physics of a large pair of bouncing boobs that it did on it’s punch-trading gameplay?
I played it a couple of times (number 4, I think?) and found the game a decent little fist flinger – in fact I may have even played the volleyball themed spin-off which I guess immediately and officially marks me out as a terrible person.
The point I’m trying to get to here is that there was nothing I saw in my limited exposure that would demand a movie version – I mean, we never got a Virtua Fighter movie or a King Of Fighters movie did we? Wait… we GOT a King Of Fighters movie?! SERIOUSLY!?
While I process this life changing chunk of information – here’s a synopsis for D.O.A..
A yearly fighting tournament is about to take place where entrants are rather recklessly invited by having a throwing knife hurled at them (although no one seems the least bit surprised when it happens) with the acronym DOA on it. Not immediately assuming the letters stand for Dead On Arrival (which in real life they actually do) the recipients plan to gather their baggage (both literal and emotional) and head to a sun-kissed island ready to pound the shit out of a total stranger for cash and glory.
We focus primarily on three female combatants with deeply conflicting moral compasses (which somehow never spark a second of internal conflict) who all have various reasons to enter a competition where second place earns you a massive concussion. First up is Kasumi, a Shinobi princess, who escapes her duties to locate her brother who went missing during the tournament the previous year who also has a sword wielding, purple haired assassin after her for leaving. Secondly is Tina Armstrong, a sassy second generation wrestler (who only does one wrestling hold during the whole damn film) who wants to prove to the world (and her wrestling superstar father) that her true fighting skills aren’t as fake as the business she’s in. Last but not least is the pneumatic nymph, Christine; a classy thief who’s frequent use of nudity means she’s virtually impossible to catch and aims to steal the prize money with her shifty partner in crime.
The three bond for no particular reason (it can’t be the girl code, there’s other women present they don’t even acknowledge) and work their way up the score boards only to discover that the whole tournament is a scam and that the guy who runs it (played by none other than Eric fucking Roberts, which somehow tips off NOBODY to his villainy) is hoping to use and combine their skills using nano-technology to create the ultimate weapon.
The good guys, joined by the roller skating fellow fighter and a computer hacker, square off to foil the dastardly plan, they fight a lot, then everything blows up…
Not much more than a cinematic masturbatory aid for teenage boys (like they need any help), Dead Or Alive is a good example of the kind of day-glow, cartoonish tosh that’s been retarding the growth of video game movies since day one and offers all the mental nourishment of a t-shirt that reads “Registered Breast Inspector”. I get not every film should be a brow furrowing study in stark intellectualism (and nor would I want them to be) but sitting through this movie is as much fun as waking up in the middle of surgery.
Credit where it’s due, yes, the three leads are extraordinarily easy on the eyes and all look in phenomenal shape (Jamie Pressly in particular looks strong enough to punch out an elephant) but the film is way too obsessed with butt cracks and boobies to give them anything memorable to do or say… Jaime Presley’s Tina is the same character she does in My Name Is Earl, I mean who else would turn up for a martial arts duel in the burning sun wearing a shit load of denim, Holly Valance’s clothes-phobic master thief is hardly a stretch for a pop star who’s most famous music video had her be – you guessed it – mostly nude and Devon Aoki’s Kasumi is the standard stern asian type.
And as for everyone else? Look, I know Eric Roberts was awesome in super-emotional tournament movie Best Of The Best but that was in 1989 for Christ’s sake, here he looks uncomfortable maintaining a steady jog – I’m supposed to believe he can fight off four lethally trained women at the same time?
Thank god for Kevin Nash far too short (ironic for an actual 7 foot ex wrestler) role as Tina’s well meaning dad which is essentially a hugely amusing and very dopey Hulk Hogan impression.
Depressingly directed by Corey Yuen, a man who worked with legitimate legends like Jet Li and Samo Hung in various capacities during his varied career, he utilises the sort of rich, haunting visual tricks and energetic wire-fighting techniques Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou adopted so artistically in such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House Of Flying Daggers; but uses them to try and desperately add weight to a fight where it’s raining and everyone is wearing bikinis.
I’m legitimately unsure if the weird positive vibe that powers this exercise in perving and punching means that everyone involved honestly thinks the movie is a refreshing, neon splash of tongue in cheek girl power, but I really hope they don’t, because a movie that includes a shot that literally pans the camera slowly across Valance’s arse in a 2.39:1 ratio is hardly what you’d call empowerment…
In fact the film is SO relentlessly and adolescently horny, you’d hardly bat an eyelid if it suddenly included a scene where the girls fight off a bunch of ninjas hoping to stage a fucking panty raid…
Wilfully stupid, the film’s fight scenes are breathlessly shot nevertheless, but the sheer weight of the forced exuberance gets irritating fast.
Less D.O.A – more t&a…