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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


“DOA: Dead or Alive” is a videogame that combines “Mortal Kombat” with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The gameplay involves impossibly buxom virtual women in various states of undress who engage in a fighting competition and occasionally stop for a spirited game of beach volleyball. A great deal of time can be spent ogling over these pixilated hotties. Someone obviously sensed the commercial appeal of the game, since it’s now been turned into DOA: Dead or Alive - the movie. Or at least it was turned into a movie a while ago. After collecting dust on a studio shelf for, oh, about two years, the flick is now being dumped into theaters in a “regional release” with no advertising or promotion whatsoever. It’s a fitting end for a videogame-based movie that’s so bad, you won’t believe it wasn’t directed by Uwe Boll.

The story – such as it is – centers around three young women who are all invited to take part in an elite fighting contest. Jamie Pressley (who has since gone onto fame with the TV show “My Name is Earl”) plays Tina, a pro wrestler who is trying to get out from under the shadow of her famous father. Kasumi (Sin City’s Devon Aoki) is seemingly some kind of princess who runs off in search of her missing brother, while being chased by Ayane (Natassia Malthe), a purple-haired babe from back home. Christie (Holly Valance) is a master thief, who plots to steal the competition’s $10 million dollar prize with the help of her boyfriend.

The event is organized and run by Donovan (Eric Roberts). We know instantly that he’s a baddie because he wears his hair in a rat tail. (You just know the ladies would consider this a major faux pas.) Donovan has some kind of nefarious plan in mind, as he injects all the contestants with little computer bugs. Later, he reveals his secret weapon: a special pair of sunglasses that…what, exactly? I’m not really sure. Kasumi, Tina, and Christie team up with another conveniently hot contestant, Helena (Sarah Carter), to take Donovan down.

The movie, like the game, believes it is vitally important to find continual reasons for its heroines to wear bikinis. Even in the fight scenes. On those rare occasions when the women aren’t in beachwear, director Corey Yuen (The Transporter) makes sure his camera goes for frequent close-ups of exposed flesh: legs, cleavage, toned stomachs, and even butt cracks are photographed in a loving (bordering on creepy) manner.

I think that the “DOA” videogame served as some kind of weird wish fulfillment for guys who thought that “Charlie’s Angels” just wasn’t sexy enough. It catered primarily to males who wanted to fantasize about large-breasted, three-quarter-naked women kicking ass. The game’s M-for-Mature rating allowed it to push titillation (no pun intended) to the max. I never played the game myself, but I’ve seen it being played. It never looked like fun to me, although it has a very devoted fan base. Those fans will doubtlessly want to see DOA.

Which brings me to my point: There has never been a really good movie based on a videogame, so why do they keep making them? And why do people keep going? Gamers are continually disappointed when they see their favorite title transferred to the silver screen, yet they all eagerly await the next big game to make that transition. The fact – which some people don’t want to admit – is that games and movies don’t work on the same level. Although games these days are heavily influenced by movies, they are fundamentally incompatible experiences. Games contain just enough story to guide you from one interactive moment to the next. Movies, on the other hand, are supposed to have constantly progressing stories. That’s why these pictures never work: they’re based on things that have tons of action yet fundamentally lack developed narratives.

And so we’re left with crap like this. DOA: Dead or Alive has clunky action, special effects that might have been cool fifteen years ago, and no character development whatsoever. The acting is no better. Devon Aoki, for instance, gives line readings so stilted, you could almost swear she’s reading the dialogue off paper taped to the foreheads of her co-stars. Even at a mere 77 minutes (excluding end credits) the pace seems to drag. Beautiful women aside, there is absolutely nothing here to draw you in, involve you, or capture your imagination. It’s about as much fun as watching someone else play a video game.

Let me make it clear that I’m a gamer myself, so I’m not criticizing games or game-based movies from a holier-than-thou position. But I’m also a film critic, and I have to be completely honest in saying that a lot of these pictures - this one included - flat-out suck. Do I have anything good to say about it? Well, yeah, the women look hot, which will be a selling point for guys. Also, in all fairness, some movies are so bad you want to gouge your own eyeballs out, while others are so bad that you sit there with a smirk on your face, almost reveling in the stupidity of them. This movie falls into the latter category. However, that does not excuse the fact that DOA isn’t really a movie so much as a horny 14 year-old boy’s wet dream. It may be good enough for 14 year-olds – or grown men who still have that horny 14 year-old boy inside of them – but for anyone else, DOA: Dead or Alive is DOA – Dead on Arrival.

( out of four)

Note: As I mentioned, the game was rated M, but the movie is only PG-13. One wonders why it didn’t have the guts to go for the R rating, which would have made it a little truer to the source material.

DOA: Dead or Alive is rated PG-13 for pervasive martial arts and action violence, some sexuality and nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.

To learn more about this film, check out DOA: Dead or Alive

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