More noise than signal

DOA: Dead or Alive

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

It’s perhaps a little unfair of me to consider the Dead or Alive series the perennial also-ran of the 3D era of fighting games to the likes of Tekken and Virtua Fighter, but it is at least a franchise that’s still going today, unlike your Battle Arena Toshindens and Bloody Roars. It’s one of the more controversial fighting games, largely due to its juvenile focus on breast motion mechanics as much as gameplay mechanics, which more or less carries over to this incarnation.

There’s perhaps some hope for optimism with Corey Yuen at the helm, the veteran fight choreographer and action director responsible for some of Jet Li’s best films, such as The Legend of Fong-Sai Yuk, although I’m sure Yuen’s western outings will swing that pendulum back to the negative for most. And, well, at the risk of spoiling the flow of this review, let’s just state up front the Dead or Alive is a colossal pile of garbage.

Again taking its structural cues from Enter the Dragon, a wide-ranging group of combatants are invited to a remote island for a fighting tournament, although unbeknownst to the competitors it’s actually being used by organiser Donovan (Eric Roberts) to harvest data on their fighting styles to create a weapon that frankly bears no scrutiny whatsoever, so let’s skip over that.

We largely follow female protagonists, Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly) fighting for respect, Princess Kasumi (Devon Aoki) investigating the disappearance of her brother at the last tournament, and Christie Allen (Holly Valance), a burglar who gets wind of a huge sum of money somewhere in Donovan’s vaults from her sometime partner Max (Matthew Marsden). They come together to pursue these agendas amongst a number of dismal fight sequences featuring the rest of the supporting cast that I cannot muster the enthusiasm to talk about.

Now, when you think about the obvious choices for lead performer in a movie focused primarily on martial arts, of course one immediately pops to mind – Australian soap star and pop crooner Holly Valance – at least if you’ve been dropped on your head a sufficient number of times as a child. It’s logic like this that pretty much runs all the way through the casting decisions – it doesn’t matter if you can act particularly well (there’s no evidence of that in this film), if you can look convincing in a fight scene (certainly no evidence of that), but only that you look appealing in a bikini.

If you did come to this film expecting at least a few decent action scenes, I can offer you one, just about, where Kane Kosugi, who may be the only martial artist in a speaking role, takes on a bunch of goons for about a minute. The rest of it is a dreadful waste of time and effort for everyone involved, with choppy editing failing to cover up the basic inadequacy of the cast to cover the material provided.

Whereas Mortal Kombat edges towards competence and Street Fighter might get a pass on unintentional comedy grounds, Dead or Alive is just a depressing, boring watch that has nothing to recommend about it unless you really have no other source for lingering close ups of bikini-clad women. A completely miserable experience from start to end, I would not wish this film upon my worst enemy. Pish.