What do you get when you mix action director Cory Yuen’s kinetic style with Eric Roberts, Jamie Pressly, Kane Kosugi, that goober from Reba McEntire’s oddly addicting sitcom, and a gaggle of wannabe martial artists in pretty little thongs?
Why, you get something along the lines of DOA: Dead or Alive, of course! In case you’re not into the whole nerd-addled video game scene, this snazzy yet impossibly retarded little flick is based on the pixilated franchise of the same name, which ultimately boils down to a series of tournament fights featuring lots of well-endowed beauties beating each other into glorious submission. You know you want to play it.
Go on — admit it.
As your perverted mind can probably imagine, this cinematic adaptation isn’t exactly a deep, meaningful experience you can share with your entire underdeveloped family. Though I’m not a fan of tournament movies by any means — I can barely sit through Bloodsport — DOA somehow managed to keep me watching until the very end. Since the story boils down to a handful of women with their own personal agendas venturing to some exotic island to throw-down with a cast of colorful characters, it definitely wasn’t the plot that kept me intrigued. Imagine that.
So was it the witty dialog that kept me glued to the screen? The deep characterization? Or perhaps it was the plethora of butt shots inspired by the randy source material? Sorry, Charlie. None of those. The only reason I decided to sally forth until the film’s extravagant conclusion was due to the presence of Corey Yuen, an absurdist Hong Kong director who has kept me coming back for more since witnessing the outrageous stupidity contained within the Jet Li opus High Risk, also known as Meltdown here in the States. Yes, dear readers, I’m that kind of geek.
Since the script is barely a paragraph long and the plot is lost at sea without hope of survival, the only thing you’re here for is either the action or the ass, though you might be able to claim both on your 2007 tax returns next year. And while there are a jagged pieces of a story buried deep within the gloss — something about a blonde thief and her bozo boyfriend scheming to steal the prize money, a vengeful princess looking for her brother, and a female wrestler desperate to prove her worth — I’m almost positive you won’t care too much about it. Trust me on this one.
Yuen, in his infinite wisdom, has smartly sliced this picture down to the bare essentials. The whole things runs at a brisk 87 minutes, leaving little room for a full-blown narrative to live and breathe and take root. Which is good, I guess, considering an engaging storyline has never been the director’s strong point. Yuen is much better at lensing stylishly choreographed fight sequences, and while it’s not the director’s strongest effort by any stretch of the imagination, DOA does showcase some lofty kung fu insanity that will surely those searching for a cheap visceral thrill. However, martial arts purists will probably balk at the constant use of wires and CGI, not to mention Yuen’s decision to completely waste what could have been his ace in the hole.
Which brings me to Kane Kosugi.
This guy is a monster. I became an instant fan after experiencing the empty yet enjoyable action-packed thriller Blood Heat last year. In fact, DOA’s most satisfying fight involves Kosugi’s infiltration of Eric Roberts’ techno-tinged headquarters, which finds the nimble fighter battling a series of hapless goons as he gradually works his way up a flight of stairs. It’s no Tom Yum Goong, mind you, but it’s still an impressive sequence nonetheless. It’s a shame his screen time is so limited. Had he been born with sizable breasts and a tight round ass, I doubt this would have been an issue.
To be fair, Jamie Pressly does have a few adrenaline-pumping moments of her own, especially during the film’s grand finale which finds our adorable four kung fu cheerleaders battling that mildly deformed troll Eric Roberts, whose spiffy new age sunglasses grant him all of his adversary’s abilities. Did I mention this movie is pretty stupid? I did? Well, it’s a point that should be driven into your thick skull like a wooden stake; expecting anything worthwhile would just be silly. Of course, fans of Holly Valance, Sarah Carter, and Devon Aoki won’t notice the lack of intelligence in the picture. More than likely, most people who investigate this title will have their hands full with other, er, things.
All joking aside, DOA: Dead or Alive is a fun little flick, one that you’ll probably kick yourself repeatedly for enjoying. Just try to stuff your preconceived notions in a cookie jar before sitting down with it and all should be right with the world. Seriously! As an action picture, it’s occasionally fierce, sporadically funny, and thoroughly entertaining. As long as you can stomach a few dodgy scenes that require our juicy collection of eye candy — both male and female — to actually hold conversations with one another, I think you’ll be surprised by how much you like it.
And if your significant other starts running his or her mouth about the film’s reliance on scantily-clad women fighting in the nude, in the rain, and with hardly anything covering their wobbly bits, just tell them that you’re here for the kung fu, thank you very much. After all, we’re here for the martial arts madness, right?