Not to be confused with the 1999 action movie Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha, this video game adaptation begins in the Ishikari Mountains of Japan where Princess Kasumi anguishes over her missing brother. Kasumi, played by Devon Aoki (Sin City, 2 Fast 2 Furious) eventually becomes a rogue shinobi (maybe they could adapt that video game) to search for her brother, played by Collin Chou (Matrix Reloaded). The princess’s bodyguard Ryu Hayabusa, played by Kane Kosugi (War), tags along to connect the several characters together. Natassia Malthe (Eletkra and the upcoming BloodRayne sequel… yes, a sequel) plays the mysterious Ayane.
Jamie Pressly (My Name is Earl television series) does the best job fighting as Tina Armstrong. After this viewing, you’ll know why Jamie Pressly always stays so “buff” and tan on her television show. Tina’s backed up by her father, Bass, played by “Diesel” wrestler Kevin Nash (The Punisher, The Longest Yard). Tina must also contend with lead pirate robber Robin Shou (Mortal Kombat – it’s a small role but Shou will direct and star with fellow waning action star Ray Park in the upcoming Dead Mule Suitcase). Another fighter named Zack is played by dancer/former football player Brian J. White (Stomp the Yard and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale). Rising British acting star/singer Matthew Marsden (the upcoming John Rambo, Resident Evil: Extinction) plays Max while big guy Silvio Simac plays Leon. Singer/actress Holly Valance rounds out the cast as the blond Aussie thief Christie.
Once the invitees arrive, Canadian Sarah Carter (Shark television series) plays hostess Helena Douglas. Texan Steve Howey (Reba television series) plays the event technician Weatherby. Eric Roberts (Best of the Best) plays Donovan, host of the DOA tournament. None of the characters are deep. The screenplay and story by screenwriter J.F. Lawton (Pretty Woman) doesn’t address much character development beyond their fighting abilities. Screenwriters Seth and Adam Gross (Bill Nye the Science Guy) also contribute to the screenplay. Nothing deep in dialogue like “I guess I’m going to the ball after all”. Just fights set to rock music and some credible directing from a master director.
This experience leaves you with a heightened sense of movement thanks to director Corey Yuen (The Transporter, The Legend) who uses camera speed and shaking effects for more impact — and it works. One notable miscue hurts the action credibility. As characters climb up to the tournament venue (think kung fu Donkey Kong), a group of female characters pull themselves up in an awkward edit, which negates their impressive efforts and the movie’s stuntwork and martial arts. Hard earned efforts from the actors/martial arts (e.g. the sand fight and a nifty stair struggle) impress individually, but don’t quite mesh into a cohesive story. Team-based themes seen in other video game adaptations (e.g. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation) are simply abandoned in this movie, except for some cheesy banter. DOA just unloads lots of bloodless and physics-defying violence (e.g. the bamboo would’ve cut most people to shreds) while reaching out to older audiences with echoes of Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Charlie’s Angels and Bugs Bunny cartoons. Unexplained invitation deliveries, fighters suddenly becoming parachute experts, nanotechnology, ability downloads and constant DOA marketing keep the tone light while potentially interesting elements like ninja acupuncture remain on the same level as the other presented elements – one-dimensional. Familiar faces can’t quite elevate the movie for older audiences (who might prefer the unrated “Asian version”), but younger audiences will enjoy it more. Rated PG-13 for violence and sexual innuendo.
The DVD extra features include the preview and “East Meets West: Behind the Action of DOA”, which talks more about the training and shows some pretty interesting special effects techniques (catch the green-suited guys lifting up the women for the volleyball sequences). French and English language options with Spanish/English subtitles.