REVIEW: D.O.A. Dead or Alive (2006)

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The Tecmo video game series comes to life and while most of the looks are quite impressive, the story of a tournament suffers from both a horrible twist and a mixed bag in the fight department.

A new martial arts tournament is in store for a group of fighters. DOA was founded by Fame Douglas, who has now passed but has been taken over by Fame’s partner Victor Donovan. This year’s fighters include Kasumi, a young Ninja princess who seeks for answers involving her brother Hayate’s disappearance; Tina, a wrestler who is tired of being called a fake; Helena, Fame’s daughter who is an extreme sports fanatic; and Christie, a master thief and assassin.

Ayana, Hayate’s loyal servant, follows Kasumi as she feels she has betrayed the clan while Ryu Hayabusa, Hayate’s best friend, also competes in the tournament along with Muay Thai fighter Zack, Sambo expert Bayman, military man Leon, and Tina’s own father, Bass. As the tournament rages on, a conspiracy involving the fighters having their skills stolen from them via nanobytes from Donovan, who plots to use the fighters’ skills to create the perfect warrior. When the fighters learn of Donovan’s plan, how will they be able to stop them?

When Tecmo’s video game Dead or Alive was first unleashed in 1996, it was a well-known 3D graphic game that would soon become more known for its female fighters and their “assets”. Enter ten years later when a live-action adaptation was imminent. However, at the time, the name Corey Yuen was synonymous with good action, especially with his work with Jet Li and Jason Statham as of late. So what went wrong with the final product?

First, there is the script by J.F. Lawton, Adam Gross, and Seth Gross. Rather than make a faithful adaptation of the video game series give or take a few things, the idea of having the tournament starts out promising but soon delves into “what the heck” territory when the tournament organizer’s intentions are revealed. Granted, the character of Kasumi is still there, but instead of seeking revenge for her brother, she is actually looking for her brother and the major flaw is that they changed Helena’s character from an opera star to an extreme sports fanatic. The other thing that will appeal DOA fans is a scene where the girls play volleyball, a nod to the spinoff game DOA: X-Treme Volleyball.

Casting plays a small issue in the film as the leads of the film are not really martial artists. Devon Aoki is miscast as Kasumi, as she lacks both charisma and skills to boot as Princess Kasumi. Thankfully, while not exactly a martial artist herself, Jaime Pressly does impress as wrestler Tina Armstrong, perhaps having the best action in terms of the main characters of the entire film, even going toe-to-toe with Robin Shou in her introductory scene. Natassia Malthe, fresh off her role as Typhois Mary in Elektra, also proves herself worthy of playing ninja warrior Ayane while Sarah Carter, who starred in the martial arts series Black Sash, is okay in the role of Helena, but had they stuck to the more faithful arc, it would have been better.

As for the boys of the film, leading the way in a sense of redemption is Kane Kosugi as Ryu Hayabusa, who assists Kasumi in her search for her brother. Kosugi has such a great fight scene and one can only hope that Kosugi will one day bring the character back in a Ninja Gaiden live action film. Silvio Simac makes the most of his fighting role as Leon, who faces off against Kasumi while former pro wrestler Kevin Nash meshes comedy in his role of Tina’s father Bass. Derek Boyer, a strongman, also proves himself well as Bayman. The only wish is that we got more of Collin Chou as Hayate, whose role is limited to a flashback and a pretty lackluster fight against main villain Eric Roberts, who after seeing him in the first two Best of the Best films, could have done much better.

DOA: Dead or Alive is a mixed bag that suffers from a terrible storyline and some miscasting. The action is a mixed bag on its own with some fights better than others but suffers from a very lackluster finale.

WFG RATING: D+

The Weinstein Company presents a Constantine Film/Impact Pictures/Mindfire Entertainment production in association with Team Ninja and VIP 4 Mediafonds. Director: Corey Yuen. Producers: Paul W.S. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt. Writers: J.F. Lawton, Adam Gross, and Seth Gross; based on the video game by Tecmo and Team Ninja. Cinematography: Chan Chi-Ying and Keung Kwok-Man. Editing: Cheung Ka-Fai, Eddie Hamilton, and Angie Lam.

Cast: Devon Aoki, Holly Valance, Jaime Pressly, Sarah Carter, Natassia Malthe, Kane Kosugi, Eric Roberts, Brian J. White, Silvio Simac, Kevin Nash, Derek Boyer, Matthew Marsden, Steve Howey, Collin Chou.

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