Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)

Remember how I was talking about video game movies? Well, there's a reason I ended up talking about that. It's because I watched this movie and, while trying to write a review for it, I ended up writing an entire thing about video games films in general. But, I refuse to just leave this movie unreviewed, so here we are. Dead or Alive. It's a video games series that you might have heard of over the years. Mostly, you likely heard of it for very particular reasons.

Those reasons are mostly based around a concept known as "jiggle physics".

Yes, it started out as a simple fighting game series, looking to try and compete with the likes of Street Fighter and Tekken, but it became rather infamous for having a large roster of female characters who moved in a very particular way. This even lead to a spin-off game in which the ladies wore very little and played volleyball and other beach/pool oriented games. Also, there may have been a pole somewhere in there that they danced on for the player's "amusement". Yes, I'm calling it that because I refuse to let this turn into another porno review, dammit. But that's not the only way that DOA managed to try competing with the big boys, as they made a live-action film based around the game series just as they did with both Street Fighter and Tekken. We'll talk about those films another day. Today, we're delving into DOA: Dead or Alive, because we need to see if there is someone more to this than simply "jiggle physics".

I assure you, there actually are men in this. Really.
The basic tournament story is in place here, with fighters from all over the world being invited to this isolated island to compete for the $10 million grand prize. And, like in the games, many of the fighters are women who are what many people would call attractive. It can become a little weird too, as there are multiple blonde fighters. But, luckily, the blonde women all stand out by having different accents. Perfect. At least, I would think that if I honestly thought any of the obvious male audience was listening rather than reaching for the lotion. Anyway, we have:
  • Tina (a professional wrestler)
  • Kasumi (a ninja princess looking for her missing brother who previously competed in the tournament)
  • Helena (heir to the company running the tournament)
  • Christie (a master thief)
  • Bass (Tina's father who I am shocked wasn't played by Hulk Hogan)
  • Max (Christie's partner who seems more interested in wrestling with her)
  • Hayabusa (a ninja from Kasumi's clan who is out to help her)
  • Ayane (a vengeful ninja out to bring Kasumi back home for punishment)
  • Zack (a spastic gentleman who wants to fuck Tina)
  • Hayate (Kasumi's missing and presumed dead brother)
  • Other fighters who don't really get any sort of focus
  • Dr. Victor Donovan (Eric Richards hamming it up as the obvious villain)
  • Weatherby (Donovan's computer guy who has it bad for Helena)
The story opens as you'd expect, introducing the main ladies by having them be themselves. Christie is stealing stuff, Kasumi bails on her hidden ninja temple, Tina beats up Robin Shou for being in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and Kevin Nash tries to pull off a convincing portrayal of Hulk Hogan while trying not to get aroused by watching his movie daughter beat up pirates in an American flag bikini top.

"So that's how it is in their family..."
 Moving on past all that, they get to the island and things proceed accordingly with all their differing motivations fueling them. Much of the film is focused around Kasumi and her investigation into the truth regarding her brother's fate. True, there is the whole thing with Christie and Max planning to steal stuff (as they are thieves), and the bit with Tina wanting to prove she's got what it takes as a fighter. But yeah, mostly it's about Kasumi. She hears that her brother died fighting another fighter named Leon, but after she beats him she smells the bullshit. Either that or she punched him so hard he shat himself.

The fact that we missed out on Hulk Hogan popping in as Bass and saying "DOOKIE?!" is a travesty.
We also have Ms. Psycho-ninja, Ayane, trying to kill Kasumi while our heroine pleads with her, trying to convince her that her brother could still be alive there. Kasumi does this because Ayane is obviously in love with him, thus making this a whole lot of drama getting in the way of the boner pounding going on with the viewers. The story progresses along these lines, even throwing in some gratuitous fan-service when the girls play volleyball (because they did that in a game, right?) and Hayabusa gets captured because this isn't Ninja Gaiden: The Movie. Somewhere along the way, Tina kicks Zack's ass for being a little too forward and also has time to show dad a thing or two when they're put up against one another.

THE GREAT ONE HAS FALLEN! STONE COLD! STONE COLD!
While all that happened, Weatherby lets Helena know there's shifty shit going on behind the scenes and that her pop may have been murdered. Well, there's a big shocker. Eric Roberts is the villain and he's done villainous things. Basically, Donovan has been downloading the fighting techniques of these great fighters and now has them downloaded into a neural interface so he can kick everyone's ass. I can only assume this because someone made one snide remark too many about his acting in Sharktopus. He reveals Hayate is indeed alive and threatens to kill the heroes and heroines if he doesn't fight him. Apparently he wanted to test the magical fighting sunglasses against the best. He beats Hayate, but the fight isn't over as Ayane saves him and the cast gathers together to battle the villain.

No, Hayabusa, not with volleyball. Quit pouting. You're a ninja.
Weatherby calls up the CIA to let them know his boss is crazy and thinks he's the god of sunglasses now, then goes with Hayabusa to find and save Max. The girls and Hayate all collectively put the beatdown on Eric Roberts, letting him know they preferred him in Best of the Best, then leaving him paralyzed as they all escape the island base by beating up Robin Shou again, stealing his pirate ship. This time it was probably for Beverly Hills Ninja.

You just can't catch a break, can you, Liu Kang?
The film closes on Kasumi confronting her clan that she betrayed to save her brother, only she's got her friends in tow because we just have to squeeze multiple breasts into every frame of this film. To be fair though, if I knew I was facing an army of ninjas, I might want a little backup. I mean, come on, these ladies beat up Liu Kang. I think they can handle an army of generic ninjas.

Fucking ninjas, man. They're like roaches. They just get in everywhere.
So, that's the movie for the most part. Was it bad? Not really. It's a basic tournament style martial arts film, hitting many of the same beats such films do. It has a lot of things ripped straight from other martial arts films, honestly. And among the many other video game films out there, it really isn't that bad at all. Sure, it relies heavily on the sexual allure of the cast of women, but so does the source material. I would actually argue that at least this movie tried to make a semi-coherent narrative, which is something that many fighting games have trouble doing.

Only Raul Julia could truly make us understand the nuances of the Street Fighter II storyline.
I wouldn't say the acting in here was anything all that great or stand-out, but it's not like I was expecting much. In the end, this movie reminded me a lot of Street Fighter, in that it resembles the original game enough to hook in fans while managing to be entertaining in a rather hokey way. It's the sort of movie that is worth watching with a bowl of popcorn if you want to switch off and see some decent fighting. There are better tournament style martial arts films out there but this is still a fun little slice of B-movie goodness. I say you watch it with Enter the Dragon and The Quest and remember that sometimes it's alright to simply enjoy a movie where people get punched in the face. So, until Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash team-up to make No Holds Barred II: The Dookiening, I'll be here blessing you all with my ramblings. Later days, bleeders.

PATRIOTISM!

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