Original Review Date: 1/6/07
Dead or Alive is purified popcorn entertainment and fluff manufactured into a MTV, flash package with no substance. When translating an innovative videogame into a film, it may not have been the best idea to make the characters look exactly as they do in the videogame. Some videogame hairstyles and costumes look pretty ridiculous in real life, a point exemplified in Dead or Alive.
Dead or Alive could have easily been a decent action film along the lines of Mortal Kombat but where Mortal Kombat’s characters took themselves seriously hence the fantastic was made real, the DOA characters act carefree in supposed life or death situations. Scenes that really could have been good: parachuting out of a plane, a fight on a raft, etc. are made slap sticky by the character’s attitudes. Everything violent and perilous inherit in fighting someone else was turned into cheese. On the limited plus side of Dead or Alive, the female actresses, especially the wrestler, Tina Armstrong, played by gym-rat Jaime Pressly; all have in-shape physiques (some more than others) and aren’t shy about displaying them.
Most of the female characters get an introduction scene which shows how they got invented to the DOA fighting competition, an almost analogous plot device to that found in Mortal Kombat, yet far less interesting and effective. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that all three main characters magically find themselves in adverse situations during these introductory scenes. These situations, usually a fight where the character is outnumbered, is somehow their DOA audition. Once they prevail, a CGI shuriken with the DOA logo gets thrown and stuck into something nearby the character, inviting them to the Dead or Alive fighting competition. An illustration of this is when one of the characters, Princess Kasumi, played by Devon Aoki, hang-glides out of her palace, making her Shinobi (an outcast) and one of these shuriken mysteriously finds her, in mid-air mind you, with her DOA invitation. How this is possible and by what method is never explained in the film.
I have no qualms about admitting that I still have the video that inspired this film, Dead or Alive 2 for the Sega Dreamcast (I still have my Dreamcast as well) but screenwriters J.F. Lawton, Adam Gross and Seth Gross contrived scenario connections and plot devices make no sense even for a videogame movie. Think of it like this: if DOA was a superhero movie, it would be an even worse version of Batman Forever/Batman and Robin. I’ve seen television shows with more cohesive (and realistic) plot lines, CGI and green screen work. DOA didn’t even need splashy effects, all it needed were in-shape, good-looking women (which they have), badass fight scenes and a semi-plausible plot, which they absolutely don’t have.
Corey Yuen’s Dead or Alive is a film of infinitely wasted potentially. It could have been an exploitive film via the sixties and seventies. It could have been an R-rated martial arts flick like Bloodsport; it could have been a nice showcase for the physical abilities of the film’s lead actresses like the television show Alias was for Jennifer Garner. It could have been as inventive and entertaining as So Close but DOA has none of aforementioned films’ quality or solidity. It’s like Corey Yuen, J.F. Lawton, Adam Gross and Seth Gross didn’t know what to do or where to go with Dead or Alive, so they took the safe and soft PG-13 route and unfortunately, we are left with a hackneyed and marginal Saturday Night insomniac action film.