DOA: Dead or Alive (2006) — Volleyball, martial arts, and embarrassment

“I am your servant but if you leave the compound, I am honor-bound to kill you.”

Justin’s rating: Dead On Arrival.

Justin’s review: DOA is one of those movies where you deeply suspect that the characters have actual names, embedded somewhere in the thick, dusty layers of the film’s script. However, since they’re defined by their one overpowering attribute, you just end up calling them Ninja Girl, Wrestler Girl, Rollerblade Girl, and Thief Girl.

It’s also one of those movies where the director once saw a slow-motion action shot, brought it home, asked it for its hand in marriage, wedded it, had a litter of rug rats with it, saved for all of their college funds, wept the day they skinned their knees and again when they moved out of the house, and retired with it in a nursing home for the action arcana. And it’s one of those movies where the sole purpose of the female presence is to model skimpy clothes, act tougher than their trust funds legitimately allow, and make all of the teen boys in the audience start salivating faster than Pavlov’s doggies.

To recap: one-note characters, slow-motion fights, exposed swaths of skin. I hope I’m not going too fast for you.

Based on a popular video game series that became infamous for “breast physics” (I kid not), DOA is essentially Mortal Kombat with less bra support. Here, a group of assorted bad girls are called from their various high-profile (and one-note) lifestyles to take part in a $10 million martial arts tournament on some remote island. Nobody seems to quirk an eyebrow at this setup, solidifying their future place in the Body Snatchers’ reign over earth.

And, naturally, this film never allows for a plane to land — all passengers, anywhere, must bail out to their destination with conveniently-located parachutes.

Maybe if there were one or two average-looking people in the DOA world, I’d find myself caring. But as it is, it’s a frightening parallel universe where zero percent body fat and endless moisturizing has resulted in some of the crankiest, most uninteresting human-shaped lemmings. As DOA continues to heap on the silliness, the characters treat it with such deadpan honesty that it makes their awful acting all the more atrocious.

As the assorted characters — let’s not pretend that anyone other than the supermodel girls hold any purpose other than to be defeated — arrive at a mysterious island where “DOA” is hosted, they quickly discover that they will need to use teamwork to survive. They also have to learn how to pronounce and spell “teamwork,” which is much more difficult due to its disyllabic nature.

Overseeing it all is a glitzy playboy, who has set up this massive tournament for… um… good reasons that I’m sure explain why he hasn’t sold the television rights away. “Vicarious voyeurism” comes to mind. There’s some weak simmering plot threads that will eventually come to a head (Ninja Girl is being chased by an assassin, Wrestler Girl has to lug her daddy wrestler along, Thief Girl bumps into an ex-partner that hung her out to dry), and almost all will certainly expose far more accidental nudity than modesty dictates.

Aside from its Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition look, DOA is a threadbare plot that exists to throw the one-noters into hyperkinetic fight sequences. These are, surprisingly enough, not too hard on the eyes. Everyone on this island is downright trigger happy to get into a brawl, and once they start their rampages no nearby furniture or accessory is safe. Happily, you can easily follow the action — in contrast to some directors’ propensity to do so many jiggles and camera cuts that you might well just be spinning in an office chair while filming at the ceiling — and the film has some genuine fun with the destruction and mayhem.

I feel embarrassed toward DOA in much the same way of a weak-willed parent might wince at the antics of his profanity-spewing misbehaving brats. I don’t wish to bring her out into the sunlight and public forum, but it’s hard keeping her at home, too.

Didja notice?

  • If you don’t ever find someone’s body, then there’s no way they can be dead! I think she’s in a bit of denial.
  • Cricket In A Box
  • She’s got an awful lot of babysitters
  • Purple hair! She’s got purple hair!
  • Okay, so she flings a sword into a wall, uses it to jump vertically over 100 feet of stone, then activates her previously hidden hang glider? Who WOULDN’T want to marry this woman?
  • Invitations to groups are often thrown deadly weapons that must be snatched out of the air a few miles above the ground.
  • Doing upside-down situps is movie lingo for “hardcore”
  • Introducing a character by showing them showering is movie lingo for “gratuitous”
  • Cool, stoic heroes are never intimidated by guards, pirates or the police
  • Jeez, it’s the softcore porn music. This isn’t blatant at all.
  • So she stuffs the innocent old guy into a suitcase after stealing his clothes? Meanie.
  • I guess it’s lucky that all of the world’s martial arts experts, including Ancient Wise Monk, are trained in the use of parachutes.
  • This movie LOVES its own logo. It’s on EVERYTHING.
  • You know, that giant 50-story temple probably has stairs, ladies. Why are you free climbing?
  • “Physicals”, in this world, consist of a spinning disc that surrounds your body while you stand sensually in your undies. You also have your name subtitled in a desperate attempt to give you a personality.
  • All the guys in this movie are perverts
  • I’d kind of question why people are giving me shots. Need to be cautious against those nasty nanobots, you know.
  • The camera feeds are all set up to project like a video game screen, complete with titles and life bars
  • Who are all the identically-dressed people on this island? Why do they cheer in unison?
  • Did she come from Japan in the 1600s or something?
  • Zack’s green hair nub is nigh-ridiculous
  • “Tee hee, why can’t you sleep in the nude too.” Sheesh.
  • Volleyball scene. Of course.
  • Is it kung fu law or something that all these movies have to have at least one fight in a bamboo forest?
  • Another incident of the Wilhelm Scream

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