Guilty Pleasures: ‘DOA: Dead or Alive’ (2006)

Image via Constantin Film

Video game movies are a very tricky business. They must adapt a source material that is, in most cases, not grounded by the rules of reality. No matter how outlandish a setting or if it can be implemented into live action at all, some studios will try their hardest to either emulate the source material or take it into a whole other direction. This can alienate the mainstream audience, disappoint the game’s fan-base or both. DOA: Dead or Alive is one such movie, and the sheer absurdity of its presentation turns what should be a cheesy action flick into an unintentional comedy.

Based on the infamous fighting game series, the movie centres on fighters being invited to the titular tournament with the promise of a cash prize. Among them are the ninja princess Kasumi (Devon Aoki), wrestler Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly) and professional thief Christie (Holly Valance). Each of the girls have their own goals to achieve in the tournament and have the time to get up to a few shenanigans. Behind the scenes, the tournament is actually a black market plan to take the best fighters and duplicate their fighting styles.

Image via Constantin Film

What is the appeal of this movie or at least the big selling point? Not the story, that’s for sure. It’s as straightforward as a ruler and is a standard defeat-the-bad-guy plot with martial arts and beautiful ladies thrown into the mix. When you think movies with simple stories that don’t take themselves too seriously, this is one of them. At the same time, the movie has this bubbly tone to it that keeps everything lively. It’s full of energy, which is reflected in the soundtrack and the flow of the action scenes.

While the movie lacks a substantial story, it does offer some decently choreographed action scenes. Some scenes may show off obvious uses of actors being strung up on wires, but there are others that demonstrate creative uses of the environment and props. The fast, light tone of the movie keeps everything in motion; there’s no stopping for long banters in the middle of battle. Granted, if you’ve seen one martial arts movie, low or high budget, you’ll likely be well versed.

One aspect the movie borrows wholeheartedly from the game series is its roster of beautiful women. It makes no effort to conceal how attractive these characters are, in and out of the ring, to the point where they decide to throw in a gratuitous volleyball scene. It’s absurd, it’s comedic and it is almost completely unnecessary. When the movie decides to slow down before the next big set piece, it’s to show off the assets of these girls more than the plot.

Image via Constantin Film

The movie was not received well. It has a 34% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 38%. Criticisms were mainly aimed at the shallow story and the shameless depiction of its female cast. The action scenes received mixed opinions, with some praising the movie’s choreography and others slamming it for its reliance on digital effects. The movie also failed to recoup its budget, making it a commercial flop.

DOA: Dead or Alive is a film that requires you to turn off your brain in order to appreciate its cheesy shamelessness. It’s a love it or hate it movie, and yes, it’s yet another example of a bad video game adaptation. That being said, this is a movie you don’t watch to take seriously. Rather, it is a movie to watch when you need a few laughs, even if you’re laughing at it instead of with it. It’s a light hearted, trashy movie with decent fight choreography and beautiful ladies. Should you watch it? Maybe, if you have a morbid sense of curiosity.