DOA: Dead or Alive Review

It’s likely impossible to take anything in DOA remotely seriously. It chooses to eliminate its credibility from the start, a group of fighters chosen from around the world assembled on a plane, and forced to parachute down to the island where a tournament will begin.

We know a few of these people can fight, at least the females. Each isn’t introduced with a personality, but gratuitous panty shots and brawling. That’s what DOA is selling anyway. According to this fiasco though, being a specialist in a specific martial artist also makes you a precision sky diver as the utterly pointless sequence shows us. Just imagine is half the fighters, including the old Chinese kung-fu master Gen Fu (Fang Liu), didn’t know what they were doing and splattered onto the ground. So much for the tournament and the ultimate plan of evil-doer Donovan (Eric Roberts).

Donovan has some nifty nanobot technology that will allow him to steal the moves of each fighter, letting the end user utilize them via some sunglasses… you just have to go with it. He explicitly states that no weapons can be used in the fights, yet a brawl through the sleeping quarters between Bayman (Derek Boyer) and Kasumi (Devon Aoki) produces blows from tables, planting pots, and other utensils. So much for the basic rules.

There are two things done well in DOA. Director Corey Yuen capitalizes on the athleticism available, choreographing some well-edited, vibrant fights. The constant flipping and kicking all looks great on film, even the excessive wire work, posing, and other visual non-necessities.

He also has a cast of females that he puts in front of the camera in every possible way except those that would land an R-rating. It didn’t really matter, the film notorious for refusing to be shown by theater owners who didn’t see any profit potential in screening it. The teaming of Jamie Pressly, Holly Valance, Sarah Carter, and Devon Aoki is exploited endlessly for extended eye candy, including an utterly pointless volleyball game that only serves as a reference to the beach volleyball edition of the game this movie is based on.

DOA fails at everything else, even in the stretched thin movie logic of this script that staggeringly came from three different writers. Maybe it’s worth a run for the sex appeal and fighting, but only if you can fast-forward through the rest… like skydiving.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

Standoff @ 42:51

DOA comes from the Dimension Extreme label in an AVC encode. Immediately apparent is a course, typically unnatural grain structure. Simply put, the 35 mm nature of the source material is far too apparent, collapsing into noisy clumps of artifacting. It’s spotty for sure, rather awful at 26:29, and ruining a fight in the rain at 50:32. In other spots, the problem is completely nullified.

It’s a bit of a disappointment too, since just about everything else is fantastic. The color palette utilized here is insane, from the warm but accurate flesh tones to the vividly colored clothing worn by everyone. What little island photography there is benefits from the saturation, including a fantastic bamboo brawl with vivid greens sprouting up everywhere. Aoki’s flashbacks also produce some increasingly rich hues, in addition to some obvious digital smoothing and blooming light sources, the latter two obviously intent.

A bright, well calibrated contrast accentuates everything, while fantastic shadow detail aids in the dimensionality displayed. Black levels reach a firm level and sit there. Few scenes draw any negative attention for a lack of depth.

Close-ups resolve generally exceptional facial detail, which some random drop-outs. Ayane (Natassia Malthe) at 3:30 is literally washed out and smooth, a rarity in a film with typically razor sharp definition. Zack’s (Brian White) close-up at 45:46 is great, as is Christie’s at 49:45. Even Eric Roberts has moments of clarity, such as 1:04:18. When this transfer is on the mark, it truly excels with some fantastic sights.

Video ★★★★☆ 

The disc unfortunately skimps on the audio, a paltry Dolby Digital 5.1 effort that is hardly sufficient these days. The compression is apparent too, the music at the beginning of the film subdued and flat. This remains true for the rest of the running time.

Bass is the real disappointment, muddy and indistinct. Punches hit with a unclean thud. The low-end in regards to music lacks a convincing tightness, sort of wandering off without much impact. An explosion at the finale carries a hefty blow, but minimal definition.

There is little doubt this is an aggressive mix when it comes to placement. The best example comes late as the girls swing some chains around at1:14:30, each tracked well front to back. It’s a convincing effect, much like the fights with well-split stereo channels handling the load. Various grunts and sound effects can be made out left to right as the battles continue. The ridiculous means of contacting the fighters at the start, a digital shuriken tossed in their direction, also track well as they pan across the sound stage.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Extras include some deleted scenes that run 6:25, followed by a promo featurette that lasts 11-minutes. A trailer is left.

Extras ★☆☆☆☆