When DOA was released in theaters, it barely made back half its budget. Critics and gamers alike trashed it. Knowing Hollywood’s track record for adapting video-games into crappy movies. I had no intention of watching DOA, but when those credits began to roll after 87 minutes, I’m glad I did. DOA is one of the most fun movies I’ve ever seen!
The plot follows ninja princess, Kasumi (Devon Aoki), as she searches for her missing brother on DOA island. Her personal protector, Ryu Hayabusa (Kane Kosugi) accompanies her to the mysterious island where a tournament is being held.
Meanwhile, career thieves, Christie (Holly Valance) and Max (Matthew Marsden), have made their way to the island looking to loot the place. The main cast is rounded out with Tina Armstrong, (Jaime Pressly), a wrestler trying to prove to the world that she’s not a fake, and Helena Douglas (Sarah Carter), the bubbly, energetic daughter of the late DOA founder.
The throwaway plot is pleasantly predictable and unfolds exactly as you’d expect. By the end of the movie, Tina’s proven that she’s a real fighter, Kasumi has rescued her brother, Helena has avenged the death of her father, and Christie and Max . . . well they don’t get the money, but it’s a happy ending anyway.
What makes this movie great is its vibrant visual style, its humor, its relaxed atmosphere, its crazy fight scenes, and especially its likable cast of characters. Visually this is a beautiful movie to watch. Colors are all bright and crisp with nary a spec of dirt to be seen even when people are crashing through walls. The movie takes on a cartoonish look because of this but it works.
The bright, lively look of DOA matches the relaxed atmosphere. The mood on the island is upbeat and carefree. Even the villainous Donovan (Eric Roberts) finds time to enjoy watching a game of beach volleyball. All of the characters, save the ultra-serious Kasumi, bring their own humor and wit to the table.
The fights kick ass too. Every fight makes great use of the environment. Whether fighting across a series of rafts, on the beach, in a bamboo forest, or a flight of stairs, the fighters are keenly aware of their surroundings and make the most of every setting, usually with awesome or comedic effect.
DOA has some of the most memorable supporting characters in the form of the cocky Zack, the always-smiling Max and the nerdy Weatherby. The movie represents all the characters from the game wonderfully, but Weatherby (Steve Howey) seems to represent the player. We first see him staring with infatuation at Helena on a computer monitor. He sets up the matches just as players at home select their fighters. He calls out obvious discrepancies between the game and the movie, such as Max’s involvement in the tournament. And later he’s able to meet Helena in person and finds that she likes him too! Weatherby’s place in the story seems like a fan’s dream come true. He may be a dorky computer nerd with a bad Hawaiian shirt, but he’s instantly likable and a great source of comedy.
The coolest nerd ever: Weatherby
If there’s one drawback to DOA, it’s Devon Aoki’s portrayal of Princess Kasumi. Her dry, emotionless performance is reminiscent of Queen Amidala in “The Phantom Menace.” Even so, Aoki has few scenes to herself, and the lively characters are able to play off of her straight-man routine.
Kasumi wonders why everyone hates her movie.
DOA: Dead or Alive is quite possibly the greatest underrated movie ever. It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, it’s full of beautiful women kicking ass, and you can tell that everyone working on it was having a great time making this movie. Ignore all the flak DOA: Dead or Alive gets, and check it out for yourself.