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Saturday, June 16, 2007

DOA: Dead or Alive

I'm disappointed.

I went to out of my way to catch opening night of the limited release DOA: Dead or Alive last night, planning to see the worst video game movie ever made. My buddy and I actually rushed to the theater because we were running late -- and ended up being 2 of 5 people to see the film.

I had appropriately low expectations, because while I watched Jaime Pressly talk up the action and fun of the film on The Tonight Show last year, she months later backpedaled about the film having "lost its way", "not being all it could have been", etc. -- also on the Tonight Show. When one of stars distances from a film, that's rarely a good thing. And video game movies don't have a great track record. And really, the Dead or Alive game franchise has kind of a gossamer-thin film premise.

Thing is, the film doesn't suck that bad. Sure, there's no plot of which to speak, and the whole thing is contrived to get more and more shots of the titular DOA girls (wow, I can't believe I stooped so low).

And Pressly, despite her balkings (and fans' rantings; that's got to be a frightful demographic), I think is well-cast as Tina, the pro-wrestling fight tournament contender.

Less well-cast (surprisingly to me), is Devon Aoki (Kasumi), who not only doesn't look the part, but where her deadpan demeanor worked so well in Sin City, it came across as wooden in this film.

Strong actors in the film are actually lesser known folks. Steve Howey (Weatherby) does a great, mostly non-overacted job, and I'm encouraged to see a talented actor (who I think does so well on Reba) taking off (and I hope TV comedy The Beast does well for him).

The other surprise in DOA is Sarah Carter (Helena Douglas). She's got a smile I'd call "infectious", and if you're into the acting process, watch her closely as she reacts -- not acts -- in her onscreen moments. A lot of those good moments are with Howey, which might or might not be coincidental. Of course, if I were to watch Skinwalkers, I might change my mind.

It's a shame Robin Shou (Pirate Leader) has such a minor role. He rocked as Liu Kang in the first Mortal Kombat, is a solid martial arts actor, and does a great job in his minor role.

I think Eric Roberts (Donovan) does a good job, but is miss-cast (does he watch the film and say, "That hair! What was I thinking?"). But, he's great in other stuff (like Heroes; and I am looking forward to him in The Dark Night).

The choreography in the movie is pretty good (for the main actors; the extras, waving their weapons needlessly in the air to purposely miss their targets, are laughable). And there are some good cinematic moments (the cutting back and forth between the fight scene between Holly Valance (Christie Allen) and Carter is surprisingly well done, and feels like it comes from another film.

Of course, there are way too many "I-don't-think-that-was-intended" laughable moments in the film. The "extreme ass cam" (during the above fight) made me laugh out loud.

More frustrating, is there are some basic film making things to which they could have paid attention to make the movie tighter. Like not insulting the audience. Example: When revealing a critical character, flashing back to the scene where he was introduced, having another character shout, "[name]! My [relationship]!", all while cutting back and forth between the present and the flashback. Insulting.

And there are missed opportunities. There could have been some clever stuff done with the DOA fighters not using weapons (and triumphing over those who do), that would have been a nod to the video game's Itagaki.

All that said, it's not the worst video game movie. It's not as good as the first Mortal Kombat (but better than the second); it's better than Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter; and (I'm told), it's better than every Uwe Boll film. Heck, comparing it another film from this summer, it's better than Ghost Rider (though, admittedly, I had expectations for that film, and none for this).

Oh, and for those looking for fan service, realize that while all of the fighters are in the film, most of the non-busty have brief roles or cameos. And if you're looking for more titillating fan service, you're better off with the Dead or Alive 4 video game cutscenes, or the over-the-top Dead or Alive Extreme 2 game.

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