DOA: Dead Or Alive

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Movie Review by Samuel Taradash

Starring: Holly Valance, Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Sarah Carter, Eric Roberts
Director: Cory Yuen

There are a lot of things that aren’t great about DOA. But for a movie based on a video game, it’s not too bad. The costumes and sets, however improbably combined, are stylistically consistent – no mean feat when you’ve got a purple-haired ninja girl sharing space with a pro wrestler and a graduate of the Dennis Rodman school of personal grooming on a tropical island fortress. Just try not to think about it too much. The premise of the original game was a cross between the island martial arts tournament of ENTER THE DRAGON and the create-an-ultimate-fighter plan from UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, with a heavy dose of ninja soap opera and computer rendered T & A for flavour. Featuring high-speed fights, exotic backgrounds and shapely women in revealing costumes; the movie almost wrote itself.

Director Cory Yuen (TRANSPORTER, Jet Li’s THE ENFORCER) managed to capture much of the frantic energy of the original 3-D games with fast paced action and well edited fights. But he also recreated the one-dimensional characters and simplistic motivation. Ideas, scenes and motivations are liberally borrowed from other beat-’em-ups and Kung-fu classics. The intricate back stories from the games are undercut by an amazing lack of chemistry on film. A somnambulant Devon Aoki (SIN CITY) is equally unmoved by the loss of her royal title, subsequent death warrant, and the secret behind her brother’s disappearance that sparked her whole quest. Holly Valance (NEIGHBOURS, PLEDGE THIS!) tries for seductive and dangerous, but manages only flirty and stuck up as an “assassin & master thief” who kills no one and successfully steals nothing. Jamie Pressly’s (TORQUE, NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE) sass talking pro wrestler is more upset by her buttinski father than any of the other unlikely threats she faces. And villain Eric Roberts (BEST OF THE BEST, A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS) is a cross between an oily executive and a kickboxing Blofeld. For the world’s greatest warriors they’re all surprisingly bloodless.

Speaking of blood, there is exactly one visible injury: the comedy relief gets a black eye. In an entire film of head-butts, roundhouse punches and kicks that send people crashing through walls, not even the sword fights shed any blood. So apart from some television-grade kissing and an artfully choreographed fight scene featuring a topless yet obscured Valance, this film is more or less safe for younger viewers.

As long as someone is getting a spin-kick to the head or posing in an improbably tight outfit, DOA delivers on everything it promised. And that’s exactly why teenage boys wanted to see it in the first place.

2 out of 6 stars