I find it rather hilarious that people actually take films like this seriously. How they write out these long-winded reviews (that probably had more thought put into them than the entire creative process of this film), calling it horrible, poorly put together, an abomination, dumb, brainless, sophomoric, etc. It's all just pointless, and a big waste of time. DOA: Dead or Alive isn't trying to be a meaningful film. It's not trying to be The Godfather or Citizen Kane. With that said, I'm now going to waste my time typing out a long-winded review... but a positive one :D
First the story... or lack there of. DOA centers around a fighting tournament called... you guessed it, DOA, where fighters from all over the world are apparently randomly picked. They come to this tournament, fight, and then crown a champion. That's about all there is to it. Oh yeah, there's also some kind of plot twist later on where the leader of the tournament turns out to be evil (big surprise) and he's apparently trying to make a pair of high-tech sunglasses that will make him the greatest fighter of all time. No, I'm not joking, that's actually what happens. I swear to god.
DOA is all about the over-the-top action, and watching some of the most beautiful woman on earth kick lots of ass (as well as show it) and boy does it deliver these things in spades. Now granted, a lot of movies that strictly rely on these types of simple tactics to entertain truly are horrible and sometimes even unwatchable, but there's a certain charm to DOA that just makes it a joy to watch. It's as if the film KNOWS that it's a crappy video game movie, and it embraces it. In doing so the film stacks cheese on top of cheese and ham-fisted acting, and becomes all the more fun and memorable for it.
Compare DOA with other movies based on video games if you want an idea of what I mean. Movies like Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li and Mortal Kombat are huge failures because they take themselves WAY too seriously, and that's a big no-no when your premise is so silly. DOA knows what it is, it doesn't try to be dramatic or touching, it doesn't try to be anything memorable (granted there are a few "I WILL AVENGE YOU!!!" type cringe-worthy moments, but they are short and quickly lost in the endless shots of T&A and action).
Make no mistake, DOA is a pretty poorly-made film. The story is non-existent, the acting and dialogue are atrocious (but there's a certain playfulness to it all that still makes the actors a joy to watch), some of the special effects, if you want to call 'em that, are pretty laughable.
However, for everything that DOA does wrong, it also does something right. The acting, as bad as it is, has a hidden, perhaps even unintentional genius to it, almost as if the actors are saying "yeah I suck, but damit I'm having a good time making this film!". One thing I have come to learn about film is that *most of the time* if the actors are noticeably having a good time making the film on screen, the audience will in turn have a good time with the actors.
One thing DOA does exceptionally well is the fight choreography. It's simply the best I have seen in a video game based film (MK, Street Fighter, Tekken, take some lessons!). What makes it all the more memorable is that while we are watching these amazing fights, the director never lets us forget that we are watching a ridiculous cheese-fest.
Amidst all of the mind-blowing stunts and flawless direction during these moments, the director will insert a shameless boob or ass shot, or some kind of horrendously bad special effect. The expert filming techniques during the fight scenes in combination with the hilariously bad amateur moments, no matter how unintentional, are simply brilliant and really give this film a character and soul of it's own.
Perhaps one of my favorite elements of DOA is Eric Roberts (yes, Julia Roberts' brother!). Once kind of a household name in the 80s, Eric fell from grace and for a large part of the 90's and 2000s, mainly appeared in crappy B-movies (kind of like this one but without the fun). Here Roberts' plays a hilariously awesome ham-clenching villain whose sole-purpose in life is to create the ultimate sunglasses and take over the planet. Roberts plays the character pretty straight, but his occasional 'moustache twirling' and hilariously bad and nonsensical motivations work extremely well within the context of the film.
In closing, I think the best way I can explain DOA is by calling it an "accidental masterpiece". It's successful in my opinion, for a lot of the reasons that Plan 9 from Outer Space became successful over time. These films have a charm to them, something pure, perhaps a highly motivated director with a very loving passion for creating films, but lacks the skill to actually make good ones. They do a lot of things wrong, but these mistakes miraculously come together in actually making the film memorable. Unlike Plan 9 however, DOA actually manages to do some things well.
I give DOA 8.5 crotch shots out of 10. Now THIS is how you make a movie based on a video game!
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