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DOA: Dead Or Alive (2006)
Director: Corey Yuen

review by Jeff Young

Charlie's Angels meets Enter The Dragon, by way of The Matrix, with hot girls in largely non-threatening situations punching out bad guys in staged environments. Yeah, that one-line summary must have sounded great at the shiny production's story confab. Unfortunately, the filmmakers' seemingly guileless or hasty decision to sign-up the likes of vapid North American blondes in starring roles, instead of more interesting Asian starlets, robbed DOA (an otherwise commercially viable big screen adaptation of a popular videogame) from receiving anything but the most cursory critical attention, and also damaged its cult-worthy potential.

Tina (Jaime Pressly), Christie (Holly Valance), Helena (Sarah Carter, Smallville) are granted a bit too much action here when only Pressly has any history of the kind of athleticism required to 'sell' even the unreality of her fighting scenes to the chop-schlocky genre's demanding fanboys. Thankfully, kung fu clan princess Kasumi (the genuinely talented Devon Aoki, Sin City, D.E.B.S.) dominates most of the non-romantic comedy plotting, on her quest for missing brother Hayate (Collin Chou), her antagonistic relationship with bodyguard Ryu (Kane Kosugi), and duels with lilac-haired assassin Ayane (Natassia Malthe). A bunch of other hangers-on and second-stringers, including master-thief Max (Matthew Marsden), and computer geek Weatherby (Steve Howey), provide fragile male egos for the ladies to knockabout or tease, while various hulking and yet unmemorable bodybuilder/ wrestler types are hired to fill out less notable positions in the supporting cast, as opponents for the heroines to demolish. OK, female empowerment in the kick-boxing ring... Tick that off the checklist, guys.

Then we have criminal mastermind Donovan (Eric Roberts, now looking every year of his half century), whose scheme to use nanotech medical probes on the world's best female and male fighters assembled by special invitation for the tournament on his private island, in order to download all of their combined martial arts expertise to his sunglasses, cheerfully attempts super-villain chutzpah but manages to achieve only farcical comic-book sci-fi. Is it just me, or has the once-promising Roberts become an increasingly hollow actor since he played the evil Master for that Doctor Who movie?

Three names (J.F. Lawton, Adam Gross, Seth Gross) share the screenplay credit, suggesting two too many hands in the writing, adding more needless subplots when they probably ought to have been streamlining the narrative to ensure coherence, and focus creative energies on making the unarmed fight scenes inventive or at least more imaginative. What the direction by Corey Yuen (The Transporter) delivers is basic wire-fu extravagance, that's undistinguished stacked against the more wonderfully outré aspects of Yuen's earlier Hong Kong flick So Close (aka: Chik yeung tin si, 2002). If any kung fu aficionados bother to compare this modern-era adventure with the likes of the intricate mix of CGI and martial artistry in costumed dramas such as House Of Flying Daggers, or Japanese swordplay actioners like Azumi, then DOA must be found wanting in every dept.
DOA - Dead or Alive

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