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Capsule Reviews

DOA : Dead Or Alive    (2006)
There was little expectation of good cinema when approaching Dead or Alive (DOA), supplanted by the inevitable assumption that it will end up a Mortal Kombat knock-off in more ways than one. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened, with the movie based on Tecmo's celebrated fighting game looking, feeling and punching along lines already in use for many years. That is to say, we're presented with an acceptable action-comedy of sorts, although it misses big time in recreating the excitement so characteristic of the games from which it draws source materials.

In fact, the studio makes scant effort to establish any linkage with DOA the video gaming franchise, and you have to dig deep to even encounter a semblance of acknowledgement. Just as well, perhaps, for in addition to crediting Tecmo and their celebrated Team Ninja developers, this film rendition also neglects to include the hottest aspect of its electronic entertainment incarnation, the babes.

Nothing has made Dead or Alive famous as do its female protagonists, all busty, salacious and extremely bouncy. There have been numerous allegations and accusations over the years as to how DOA was corrupting young and adult minds, to all which we say: boulderdash! A finer collection of martial arts beauties has never been assembled before nor since, and for Corey Yuen to direct a version bereft of those alluring assets is downright ridiculous. Thus, we're left with a skeleton, one that looks good, sounds spectacular and even makes the odd viewer chuckle with bemusement, but has only passing association with its best-selling namesake.

This, of course, harks to several other game-to-movie conversions that have fallen flat on their faces for want of recreating the feel of the game which rendered making a movie viable in the first place. The basics here can be covered post haste. Devon Aoki leads a cast of attractive ladies that aren't even remotely as well-endowed as those from the games. Aoki plays Princess Kazumi, venturing after her long-lost brother Hayate (Collin Chou from the two latter Matrix films). She enters a secretive martial arts tournament towards this objective, where many of DOA's notorious characters await. They all wear more or less precisely their attire from the games, so that's good. Effects and music maintain an exhilarating tempo, and we're spared embarrassing visual effects of assorted cheap-looking creatures, re Mortal Kombat.

But in actual terms the movie has almost none of the fight moves we love so much. Dead or Alive pioneered tag team fighting in many ways (absent), rapid combo sequences (nowhere to be seen) and counter attacks (never made it). This lukewarm amalgamation of action scenes doesn't help, even though several protagonists do quite well overall. Especially nice is Natassia Malthe (Elektra), appearing as ninja Ayane, but even she lacks the cuppage. Sarah Carter as Helena, Holly Valance doing assassin Christie and Jaimie Perssly in the role of wrestler Tina are all acceptable, but with the original DOA's essence brushed aside they can't do a lot to save the day.

Not that they're faced with much of a formidable opposition. Eric Roberts visibly doesn't want to be here, reduced to cookie-cutter crooked tourney organizer Duncan. And many other characters that could have contributed and were so prominent in the video games further lack the befitting breadth of film. Zack, Gen Fu and everyone's favorite Lei Fang provide either the briefest cameos or mere supporting filler. This can be frustrating if you care about the subject matter. As someone who's spent copious amounts of time facing friends and foes in a suburban living room over endless sessions of DOA2: Hardcore, the cinematic release fails to satisfy by a long mash of a button.

Relinquishing the girls' bombshell appearance would have been perfectly minor had they succeeded in holding on to the exciting pace and frenetic, intricate martial arts from the games. Since those are just as out of the picture, we must therefore assume it wasn't for the dedicated gamer that this project was put together. Consequently, we must judge it just as we would any other action flick, and that judgment does not spell approval.

Lee Alon 10/9/2006 - top

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 10/9/2006 Lee Alon

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