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Dead or Alive: Joyfully making no sense

Yes, I’m talking about the film that is based on the fighting game that ALSO spawned an entire game devoted to having scantily clad females play beach volleyball.  I’ll admit to having never played any of the video games.  Fighting games are not usually my thing.  Games that spend an inordinate amount of time on breast physics, while on some level are awesome, are just a little TOO nerdy and weird even for me, so I passed on the beach volleyball version as well.  The film follows the plot of both games in a sense.  The top fighters from around the world are invited to the DOA tournament via ninja star.  I am not making this up.  When a character performs some awesome feat of martial arts a ninja star with a YOU ARE INVITED TO DOA! text on it flies in from nowhere.  Nobody seems to be concerned by this.  In case you can’t tell, this is a film that avoids the trap that many video game movies seem to fall into; taking themselves too seriously.  DOA is not a good movie, but it’s very aware of what it is.  It’s insane and ridiculous on purpose.  By embracing the lunacy, the film becomes enjoyable on a level of just watching the spectacle.

Spectacle is a good buzz word for most of the movie.  We meet our principal cast as they engage in various acts of ass kicking.  The biggest name in this movie is Jamie Pressly, basically playing the same role here as she does in My Name is Earl, only a bit smarter and also a wrestling expert.  The same country girl attitude and sass remain.  It’s also sort of intimidating how freaking RIPPED she is for this movie.  She probably knew this movie would be bad and not make any money but it had to have been a hell of way to get in shape.  Devon Aoki (of Sin City fame) plays Kasumi, probably THE iconic character from the video game.  A ninja princess, Kasumi is on a quest to find her brother, a great warrior who was supposedly killed during a previous DOA tournament.  Her reasoning is as follows as I grab these quotes from IMDB:

Ryu Hayabusa: Princess Kasumi, your brother is dead. Your destiny is to lead your people.
Kasumi: I will not believe he is dead, until I see his body.
Ryu Hayabusa: There is no body.
Kasumi: Then he is not dead.

It is behind this cold hard logic that Kasumi abandons her people to go fight for some money and play beach volleyball.  I like Devon Aoki and she brings a good physicality to the role, but I’ll just say there is a reason her best film is Sin City, a film in which she never actually speaks.  Holly Valance and Sarah Carter round out the four main ass kicking females of the cast, playing master thief Christy and daughter of the founding father of the tournament, respectively.  There is one more piece of important casting, but it’s so awesomely insane that I’m saving it for last.

Jamie Pressly could kick your ass.

While the plot makes no sense and the acting is average, I was actually very impressed at how well done the action scenes were.  Kasumi especially has some stand out melee’s such as a wicked sword fight in a bamboo forest (in which she doesn’t even get a sword!) or literally smashing through the walls of the hotel fighting a guy that probably weighs about 3.5x more than her.  Aoki for acting no, Aoki for fight scenes yes.  Tina has a hilarious fight scene with her father (pro wrestler Kevin Nash whose playing a pro wrestler, so it works out) that takes what could have been a forced serious moment (FATHER FIGHTS DAUGHTER OMGZZZ) and makes it involve lesbian jokes.  Well played DOA, well-played.

The last bit of casting I was referring too comes in the form of the movies evil dude, the new head of the tournament named Donovan.  Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Eric Roberts!  In a movie that features tons of good-looking women running around in bikini’s, he is arguable the best part (Holly Vallance’s opening topless fight scene may be the winner, but I digress).  Spoilers ahead (there is absolutely no reason you should care about spoiling anything in this movie, but just in case).  Eric Roberts plan is to use an extremely advanced computer system to download the fighting styles and moves of the DOA fighters into a pair of sunglasses that connect directly to his brain when worn.  This enables him to be the best fighter in the world.  He will then sell this magic sunglasses of ass kicking technology to other douchebags around the world.  So of course our 4 heroines attempt to stop him by fighting him while he wears the glasses.  Which results in a scene in a movie where they had to edit in such a way as to make it seem like ERIC ROBERTS IS PERFORMING VARIOUS MARTIAL ARTS DISCIPLINES.  I have seen some wacky fights in movies before, but this one might top the list.

He's wearing the sunglasses of power OH FFFFFFFFFFFFFF

Dead or Alive is somewhat rare ; a movie that knows it’s bad and revels in it.  I’m not going to sit here and say you should go out and see this movie asap.  But if you were going to watch a bad action movie, you could do much worse.  It has legitimately funny moments (some intentional, some not), solid action, and hey let’s be honest, most of the movie is four good-looking girls running around in their underpants.  I imagine that fans of the game will enjoy this film more than most, but no prior knowledge is needed to follow the plot.  What’s there to follow is so insane it wouldn’t matter anyway.  Sometimes insanity can be ok though, and if that kind of mood strikes you, Dead or Alive is a solid choice.

Only one of these girls is actually supposed to be trained as a ninja, but hey, SWORDS FOR EVERYBODY!


One Response

  1. Wow. That sure looks like a movie so awful it’s awesome.

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