DEAD OR ALIVE
Princess Kasumi (Devon Aoki) is ninja royalty to a loyal samurai clan located somewhere in the mistier regions of Japan. Her brother Hayate (Collin Chou) has been missing, presumed dead, since not returning from a top secret, island-based martial arts tournament known as DOA: Dead or Alive. Kasumi is invited to participate in the next DOA competition and accepts, hoping to find out what happened to her brother. There she meets spirited pro-wrestler Tina (Jaime Pressley) and slinky thief and assassin Christie (Holly Valance). The three girls bond over a love of Hong Kong wire-work, a common aversion to clothing and a curiosity about the true motives of tournament director Dr. Victor Donovan (Eric Roberts). As DOA moves towards its final rounds, Kasumi, Tina and Christy are forced to fight both against and with each other.
Review by Joel Meares:
DOA is based on a computer game of the same name. Players fight other opponents or the computer against the backdrop of some rather vivid locations. Director Cory Yuen (The Transporter) takes a no-fuss approach to getting viewers straight to scenes that are just like that in his film version of the game. The girls are invited to an island location. The girls arrive at the tournament. The girls fight a procession of characters from the game - some giant, some elderly, and some wearing roller skates - and then team up to fight the computer system that has been monitoring their progress. It's a rather literal game to film translation.
However, in perhaps pleasing fans, Yuen has left me icily cold. The tired computer game conceit (so literally realised here that when characters win, title cards appear to announce their victory) seems to hem and constrain the entire production. There's no room here for anything that was not in the game. When characters aren't fighting, they're preparing to fight. Like the woeful Street Fighter film before it, DOA contrives a tedious scenario that rushes between its set pieces, propelled by characters less interesting than their pixelated counterparts. The fights themselves lack both kick and grace. Interestingly, an overabundance of computer effects and jumpy nervous editing renders the decent choreography mute and unreadable. Between fights, Yuen and writer J. F. Lawton reveal some interest in arts other than the martial. Thus, there are plenty of lesbian jokes and ill-fitting bikinis.
Not all is bad. In sum, DOA is rarely good but rarely dull. This is in large part because the three leads each have some degree of transcendental charisma. Aoki is beautiful, Pressley has good comic timing and Valance is surprisingly terrific in an appallingly meatless role. The climax too is suitably climactic, managing to generate some suspense in a throw-everything-in-the-blender kind of way. Yet, strung by its computer game roots DOA, unlike its stars, never transcends its origins. A volleyball game between the girls seems a break in the proceedings, until of course, you find a copy of "DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball" in your XBOX collection.
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DEAD OR ALIVE (M)
CAST: Devon Aoki, Jaime Pressley, Holly Valance, Derek Boyer, Sarah Carter, Collin Chou, Steve Howey, Kane Kosugi, Natassia Malthe, Matthew Marsden
PRODUCER: Mark A. Altman, Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Bernd Eichinger, Robert Kulzer
DIRECTOR: Corey Yuen
SCRIPT: J.F. Lawton, Adam Gross, Seth Gross
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Chi Ying Chan, Kwok-Man Keung
EDITOR: Ka-Fai Cheung, Eddie Hamilton, Angie Lam
MUSIC: Junkie XL
PRODUCTION DESIGN: James Choo, Sung Pong Choo
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 7, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
VIDEO RELEASE: December 13, 2006