D.O.A.: Dead or Alive
Film review by: Witney Seibold
“D.O.A.: Dead or Alive.” Oh sigh. Watching this movie filled me with nostalgia. Nostalgia for when I was fifteen, excited about moves based on video games, and a good fight scene (regardless of context or techincal skill) was enough to sate me. Watching it as an adult, I could see the preposterous acting, even more preposterous plotting, and bad editing in stark relief. But my inner fifteen-year-old self was wiggling with joy at the easy-to-understand videogame setup, the enthusiastic fight sequences, and the acres of taut, tanned flesh just barely wrapped in brightly-colored bikinis.
That setup: Little flying ninja-star looking things are flying around the world (how they are piloted or navigated is never clarified) landing in front of the world’s greatest fighters. We see Princess Kasumi (Devon Aoki) abandoning her ninja clan by hang-glider, going to seek her vanished brother, when she gets a flying blade. We see Christie (Holly Valance) a sexy catburglar beating up Interpol agents and fleeing on a motorcycle when she gets one. We see Tina (Jaime Pressly) sunbathing in her bikini, putting the smackdown on some pirates, when she gets one. The star thingies are invitations to a worldwide fighting competition. They all happily accept the invite, and gather on a tropical island to fight with various video-game looking characters, including Helena (Sarah Carter), the cute perky one, Zack (Brian J. White), the sassy black guy, and Bass (Kevin Nash), Tina’s Hulk Hogan-looking dad. Old Chinese Fighter is there, as well as Ex-Ninja Commando guy. There’s also a character named Ryu Hayabussa (Kane Kosugi) which, if memory serves, was the lead character from the 8-bit classic “Ninja Gaiden.”
The island is overseen by the mousy computer expert Max (Matthew Marsden), and vaguely menacing Donovan (The Eric Roberts) who have injected microscopic muscle camera robots into all the fighters so that they can be filmed wherever they are on the island, and a group of unseen Triskelion Gamesters can bet on them, or something. The fights all go down whenever, and, like, they have to knock each other out, and there’s, like these “KO!” announcements just like in the game, and Max has a crush on Helena. And, of course, The Eric Roberts is up to something sinister. I won’t give away the ending, but it involves a long-lost character and a magical pair of techno-sunglasses.
From what I understand, in addition to a series of fighting games called “D.O.A.” there’s also a spinoff game where the same characters merely play beach volleyball with each other called “D.O.A. Volleyball.” The movie, not to be outdone by this concept, does indeed feature a two-on-two bikini beach volleyball tourney. The camera zooms in on breasts and buttocks a lot.
With all its fast editing, computer animation, and high-tech gadgetry, “D.O.A. Dead or Alive” comes across as rather quaint. The fights are bloodless, the sex is very chaste, and the language is kept mostly clean (despite Pressly’s dirty southern mouth), firmly standing the film in PG-13 territory. The film could have easily been made 20 years ago with the same screenplay and felt exactly the same. Hell, The Eric Roberts could have still starred. It’s a throwback to a certain breed of brainless cheesy action film which one sees little of these days. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your tolerance for this kind of movie.
If you’re 15, by all means, see “D.O.A.: Dead or Alive.” If not, you should like fine, aged cheddar cheese.