Director: Corey Yeun
Cast: Holly Valance, Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Sarah Carter, Natassia Malthe, Matthew Marsden and Eric Roberts
Plot: Fighters from all over the world are drawn to the ultimate fighting competition with a ten million dollar prize, unaware they are walking into a dark conspiracy.
As a movie reviewer, every now and again, I confront a difficult question. How do I review a movie that I know, if I look at it critically and logically, is pretty poor, yet at the same time, I cannot help but love it. D.O.A is a good example of that problem.
Video games have never been too successful in the world of cinema. D.O.A is one of those kinds of films and the only reason it isn’t criticised as harshly as ‘Resident Evil’ or ‘Tomb Raider’, is because nobody ever expected D.O.A to work. Most reviews I have read are the literature equivalent of rolling your eyes. For those that do not know D.O.A is essentially an extension of the Tekken or Soul Calibre franchise. It is an arcade-style game, where you are given several characters and you make them fight each other. It is pretty much a Tekken rip-off, but the available characters are less fun or interesting. The movie is just as unimaginative. Several fighters from across the world (a master thief, a samurai princess), are contacted by a mysterious figure called Donovan, who wants to host a fighting tournament with a prize of ten million. They all show up, take part in some heavily-stylised action set-pieces and then realise that this Donovan has a cheesy megalomaniac scheme and they turn their attention to taking him out. A lot of the time it feels like the screen-writers handed in a first draft of a potential story and the producers went ‘that’ll do.’
But D.O.A never claims to be anything less than a popcorn flick. Sure, it is essentially scantily-clad ladies beating ten shades of shit out of each other, but that is all this film ever wanted to be. I have never paid any interest in this game, so because the movie is fairly likeable, I was moderately impressed. While the performances are one-note, they are hardly awful. Most of the time, we get the impression that the actors are in on the joke. The likes of Holly Valance and Eric Roberts do little more than chew the scenery, but the fun they have doing so is so infectious that we are won over. Sure, you might roll your eyes, when the ladies decide to have a game of beach-ball, but it is clear that this is a reference to a terrible spin-off to the games, so we roll with it. The movie never slows down long enough for you to end up suffering from the flaws. Sure, it might be skin-deep and as sexist as Snyder’s personal Sucker Punch fan fiction, but at least, no one is denying it.
And if you do think this is a talentless mess, you have to admire the fight sequences. If Corey Yeun is a poor overall director, you must admit that he can coordinate a fight. The camera lovingly films the action, as we get over-the-top violence scene after scene. Every punch counts and while it is a little too stylised to really connect too much, you must admit that it looks pretty cool. The game is always at the forefront of his mind, and while D.O.A’s biggest flaw is not moving far enough away from the source material, at least, it feels honest.
Final Verdict: DOA: Dead or Alive might be a poor movie with little character development and too much emphasis on fight scenes, but it does what it does best well.