A weekly look at transformative works, and just how they compare to their source material…
Based on the video game Dead or Alive (1996) by Temco
Adaptation Grade: A+
RYU: Princess Kasumi, your brother is dead. Your destiny is to lead your people.
KASUMI: I will not believe he is dead, until I see his body.
RYU: There is no body.
KASUMI: Then he is not dead.
Forget Tomb Raider, forget the Resident Evils, and please god try and forget Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. It is no exaggeration for me to say that DOA is clearly the best videogame-based movie of all time.
That probably needs a disclaimer. Dead or Alive 3 and 4 are my two favorite games ever and I have spent more hours on them than should be possible and still have a full-time job… and a wife… let alone a kid. But loving a video game is not a guarantee for loving the movie, for evidence of which, see Prince of Persia. (Or, no, don’t.)
DOA is a fighting tournament, Enter the Dragon-style, to which you get an invite by being generally awesome in a random fight at some opportune point leading up to the tournament. And it probably helps if you manage to win this fight while scantily-clad in underwear, a bikini, or super-hot ninja gear.
At the end of said fight, someone with the most amazing aim in the history of the world throws a spinning disk invite which might reach you while sky-diving, or hit the front of your speeding motorcycle, or land on the deck of your boat in the middle of the ocean and the only craft for miles and miles (apart from that of the pirates who unsuccessfully tried to take the boat and were on the other end of a girl in a bikini being awesome in a fight).
Of course there is a villain, a man called Donovan (Eric Roberts) who is using the tournament for nefarious purposes. He injects… wait for it… nanobots (of course) into all of the fighters so he can download their moves into his magic sunglasses (I’m not kidding). These sunglasses will make him the greatest fighter in the world and are apparently greatly coveted by wealthy bad people everywhere, who are prepared to pay handsomely for them. Weirdly, they seem to be willing to spend more on the glasses than on guns, which would clearly be more effective, no matter how good of a fighter they made you. Naturally, the beautiful girls all get together to defeat the bad guy, and also save the hot ninja’s brother, who got captured by the villain at the last tournament, by the way.
The thing about DOA is that the plot is extremely straightforward — there are beautiful women who are the good guys and a smarmy old guy who’s the bad guy. The women win, all the while being sexy and learning the value of teamwork. At no point in the movie does somebody wake up to find it all a dream, or turn back time, or use any of those convenient plot devices which turn perfectly respectable B-Grade movies into D-Grade disasters. Whenever you’re watching an average movie, you’re sitting there waiting for it to all get stupid, and it seems that cheap movies are more prone to employ the dodgy plot device for some reason (excluding M. Night Shyamalan movies, of course). I honestly don’t know what it is.
But the worst possible sin of a movie based on a video game that is all about fighting is a lack of fighting. Nobody wants a convoluted plot with no action. And this is ultimately where DOA delivers most. The movie is a constant stream of increasingly unlikely fights and stunts, from skydiving out of ninja castles to sexy fights in the rain to a random beach volleyball scene straight out of DOA: Beach Volleyball to the climax of an exploding temple.
In short, this is 87 minutes of fabulous action that never gets too clever or too stupid.
Story by: J.F. Lawton | Written by: J.F. Lawton, Adam Gross and Seth Gross
Directed by: Corey Yuen
Starring Jaime Pressly, Holly Valance, Devon Aoki, Natassia Malthe, Sarah Carter, Eric Roberts