Tuesday, September 25, 2012

DOA: Dead or Alive

If you're a video game fan you definitely know of the Dead or Alive series which features various buxom babes beating the crap out of each other while saying some of the most nonsensical dialogue you’ve ever heard. It's a fun series that's endured over the years in various forms (even a surprisingly good volleyball game that's all about boobs and [volley]balls), and it was only a matter of time before it was optioned to be turned into a movie. I mean who wouldn't want to see half naked big chested chicks doing kung fu for 90+ minutes? I know I did!

So the rights were purchased by Paul W.S. Anderson (who directed two of the most successful video game-to-film flicks, Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil) and Mark Altman (who wrote and produced the putrid House of the Dead movies) and hired Hong Kong fight choreographer/director Corey Yuen to helm it. The cast he assembled was great and the actresses/actors seemed to fit the game's characters to a "T", and all the press the film garnered, while looking like a Charlie's Angels version of Mortal Kombat, showed off some amazing fight sequences (no surprise) and breathtaking cinematography complete with the required T&A (which was plentiful).
But for some reason it was never released in America. The UK got it in the summer of '06, as did most of the world, but here in the states it was a no show. All we received were a bunch of constantly changing release dates. Well, apparently the film wasn't too well received abroad and the Weinstein Company, who had purchased the distribution rights, got cold feet (The did the same to Equilibrium) and decided that the best way to go for the US release was straight-to-DVD. It gets released in April 2007.

The film was released on DVD in the UK this past December, and someone ripped it and put it up on Google Video in it's entirety for the fans in the US who never got a chance to see it. I happened across the link and took advantage of it while it was available (it was pulled off the web the day after I watched it).

So is it as cool as that goofy trailer made it look? Yes and no.

The story is basically a rip off of Mortal Kombat which was a rip off of Enter the Dragon. A group of men and women from different walks of life are invited to participate in the "Dead or Alive Tournament" on an island run by Donovan (Eric Roberts?!), the prize money is $10million. There's Kasumi (Devon Aoki), a princess who is looking for her missing brother Hayate (Collin Chou). There's Tina (Jaime Pressly), a wrestler who wants to prove that she's not a fake like her father, Bass (Kevin Nash). There's Christie (Holly Valance), a jewel thief who wants to rob the vault on the island with her partner Max (Matthew Marsden). There's Helena (the mega cute Sarah Carter), whose father created the contest and now that she's 21 wants to prove that she's able to fend for herself. There's also Ayane (the exotic beauty Natassia Malthe), the love of Hayate who has been sent to kill Kasumi for leaving her kingdom. Don't forget Zack (a pitch perfect Brian J. White), Ryu Hayabusa (Kane Kosugi), Bayman (Derek Boyer) and more characters from the game.
The film features some of the coolest and most hyperactively choreographed wire-fu fights I've seen in a long time. These actresses who had absolutely no prior knowledge of the martial arts managed to look like they've been studying for years when the time comes for them to whoop some ass. Jaime Pressly (of My Name is Earl fame) is a dancer, so she had the ability to adapt to it faster. But the others are string bean chicks who don't even look like they'd seen a samurai sword prior to working on this film. I have to give credit to these lovely ladies who were able to convince me that they actually COULD do all these ridiculous things while still looking sexy as fuck. Especially Sarah Carter as Helena. This puny thing is kicking all sorts of ass and making it look effortless while never losing a drop of her sex appeal (but the little girl voice she used throughout the film got on my nerves a little bit).

The cinematography is tops as well. There's a fight scene between Helena and Christie (both in varying states of undress) on the beach while it's raining that looks so freaking fantastically shot that it really got me excited in more ways than one. The shutter speed effect lets you see every drop of water that passes by the lens and every grain of sand the chicks kick up is in plain view. The choice slo-mo moments are inspired as well.
And that's pretty much all that this flick has going for it. Sure it's a fun 75 minute flick, but everything else about it was pretty much hokey crap. The dialogue sucks, the acting sucks, the script sucks, the costumes suck... 80% of it just sucks.

But I'm willing to forgive all of that mainly because all of these crappy aspects of the movie are taken straight from the game, from the exact duplication of the fight announcer's voice to the cheesy dialogue to the implied lesbian overtones. It's nice to see that the makers really wanted to keep the source material at the heart of the project instead of just changing it up for the hell of it. Sure most people aren't going to like this because of how cheesy and goofy it is, but as a fan of the games I was hoping that it would actually be in there, and it is. Even Zack's stupid looking green spike of hair at the front of his head is present. I dug it. They even managed to work in the Extreme Volleyball stuff!!!!
However, the editing on display here is horrible. It's cut so quickly that it will give epileptics seizures. It's like the producer told the editor that the movie was too slowly paced and to throw continuity to the wind, because there are some bad jumps in the narrative. Like a scene with Christie and her beau Max. She's sitting on a chair across from him talking about how they're going break into the island's vault, and in the next cut she's sitting next to him on the bed. The whole movie is like this, and although it didn't effect the fight scenes in any way it certainly makes watching the in-between bits a chore and mildly confusing.

I also didn't like where the story ended up going. While the plot was an excuse to move on to the next fight scene, the main reason for these people being on the island is just flat out stupid. We're talking Street Fighter stupid. Donovan had injected all the fighters with nanobots to read their attributes as they fought. But with a special pair of sunglasses he's able to absorb their attributes into himself to make him a perfect combatant. This is a process he wants to sell on the black market. While it does sound like something out of the games, it's played out horribly and even the resulting uber-fight isn't enough to make up for it. I just sat there watching this play out and shaking my head in confusion. Sure the teeny-boppers in the audience would like that plot device, but most of the game's fans are adults who expected a little bit more than that crap.
While I was disappointed that the makers didn't get some better endowed actresses to play these parts, I really liked the ones that were chosen. These chicks are smokin' hot and I would watch this film again just to see them do their thing (Holly Valance's little nudie fight in a hotel room was a plus!)

This is a total guilty pleasure flick for me. While it only offers amusement in certain areas, I was able to get over the whole silly nature of it and sit back and enjoy. I mean c'mon, it's a flick about half naked chicks beating the hell out of each other! Who's not into that? It's not a good movie in any way, shape or form, but it sure is fun. That's all I ask out of a flick.

3 out of 5

*written 3/5/07

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