Saturday, April 26, 2014

DOA - Dead Or Alive Review Part 2

When I ended the review last time, a lot of really important stuff happened in a film about a group of people getting together to kick each other in the face as many times as they can while the women try to look as sexy as possible.

We had the main character from Ninja Gaiden completely forget about security cameras after beating up floor after floor of goons like he was trapped in his own version of the Die Hard arcade game.

We had a beach volleyball tournament that ended when a ninja assassin got mad and took out the ball.

We had a female wrestler's father conclude that it was obvious that his daughter would be a lesbian after some wacky sitcom misunderstandings.

We had a character who's supposed to be an opera singer and is now a roller blading enthusiast get hit on by the biggest nerd the movie could produce for us.

...I'm pretty sure that somewhere there's supposed to be a plot, but for the life of me I can't really remember what it is other than "people kick each other in the face while broadcast on screens complete with health bars."

So let's stop messing around and jump straight into the rest of the movie.

We ended last time with Zack and Tina squaring off to face each other, and I want to say that the establishing shot of the "forbidden square" that they'll be fighting in pretty much cinches this as a video game movie.

Seriously, what island is this that has all these perfect locations for fighting?  Was it built strictly for this purpose, or was it like someone bought out an area larger than all of Disney World and decided to convert it over for ritualistic combat?

The movie promptly says "Who cares?" and gives us a wrestler fighting it out with a professional DJ.

The fight is pretty intense, and I feel the need to point out that this is the SECOND time in the movie that we get someone doing a maneuver that involves hearing a gun cock as they perform it (with the added bonus of hearing said imaginary gun fire when the blow connects).  Oh, and there's a point where Zack gets kicked in the face and you hear birds chirping.

Tina wins when Zack decides he's had enough, and we cut back to Eric Roberts and Weatherby at their computers talking about how their "nanobots" are working overtime recording each of the fights (I did mention that before, didn't I?), and how the next fight is going to be between Christie and Helena.  Weatherby thinks Helena has the fight in the bag, naturally, because he clearly was a fan of Skate in Streets of Rage 3 and knows how having wheels on your feet makes you great at fighting.

This part gets weird, though.

We cut to Christie talking to Max about their deal to steal the money, then the next fight is all done by Christie remembering the whole thing in flashback.

Oh, and it's quite possibly the most exploitive scene yet in the movie, moreso than Christie nude-fighting a bunch of Hong Kong cops, because apparently it's the only time in the island's history that it rained, and the two are fighting in bikinis on a beach.

Oh, and we get this shot:

Between shots of gratuitous wetness as two women alternate between kicking each other and grappling each other tightly, we see Christie get a glimpse of a tattoo on Helena's neck.  This is only important if you're paying attention to the robbery sub-plot, as Max is convinced that "Helena is the key."  This turns out to be less of a puzzle than you'd find in the Sunday comics section being solved by Slylock Fox, since all you need to do is put the picture in front of a mirror to see that instead of writing, it's a number code.

Man, who would've thought that putting a tattoo onto Helena's neck with a key code would be such a bad place to hide it?  It's not like she'd ever have her hair in a ponytail, except that it's how she's had her hair done the entire movie so far.

So with the final four being Kasumi, Tina, Christie, and Hayabusa, the three women decide to go look for Hayabusa in Eric Robert's office, and Weatherby is dismissed for the day so he can go attempt to comfort Helena about losing the tournament.

Christie, Kasumi, and Tina find the monitoring station where Eric Roberts and Weatherby track everything ("What a bunch of pervs," Tina points out, making me think this movie is really more self-aware than it wants to admit), and explore deeper to find Hayabusa, but ignore the fact it's an obvious trap to wind up stuck in a chamber filling with gas.

Oh, and Weatherby admits to Helena that Eric Roberts probably most likely definitely had Helena's father killed.  Eric Roberts, watching the whole thing on monitors because of course he is, sends all of his people out to kill Weatherby and Helena.

I think we're starting to get ankle deep in plot here.

About thirty people with swords show up to take out Helena and Weatherby, and while Weatherby gets knocked into some bushes pretty early on, Helena winds up dual-wielding two swords and takes out almost all of the other swordsmen and women.  I say "almost" because Weatherby gets one shining moment at the end where he punches out the last swordsman sneaking up behind Helena and then immediately shakes his fist complaining how much it hurt.

I swear, Weatherby is Bruce Banner if the Hulk never existed.

There's a cute scene where Weatherby comments that he'll never mess with Helena and she just coyly arches an eyebrow and says "Never?"  This is then ruined when Weatherby adds "...well, maybe in a controlled environment."  I hope they pick a good safe word.

Our regular heroes, in the meanwhile, have all been bound up and trapped in large metal tubes as Eric Roberts shows up to chew up an amazing amount of scenery.  We have some impressive music as Eric Roberts declares that he's going to introduce them to, and I quote, "the future."

Keep in mind, this is a game series that had the final bosses of various games be an evil criminal god and a genetically enhanced clone of Kasumi (created by Victor Donovan, Eric Roberts' character in this movie).  So since this has a movie budget instead of a fighting game budget, I'm sure we'll get something truly epic and awesome for them to fight.  I mean, even Mortal Kombat: Annihilation gave them the ruler of an otherdimensional wasteland to fight with.

Or it'll be a pair of sunglasses.  That works, too.

Now, on the one hand, I appreciate the fact they didn't have a somewhat realistic fighting tournament devolve into some massive "save the world from supernatural evil" fight or go absolutely ludicrous with the science like a Resident Evil would (though, we do already have nanobots, so it wouldn't be that far out of the question), but really...sunglasses?

Roberts puts on the glasses and his computer systems immediately begin downloading all of the data that the nanobots have been gathering and uploading them to the glasses (or to his head? I'm not really sure), and he reveals one more big plot twist: he's been keeping Hayate, Kasumi's brother, prisoner for the past year as the "ultimate test" of whatever it is his technology does.

Hayate, naturally, flips out on Hayabusa for letting Kasumi get captured, but then Eric Roberts challenges Hayate to mano-a-mano combat, where he promises to let everyone go free if Hayate wins, but they die if he refuses.

So, now we get to see what these funky glasses do.  They apparently predict every single move the opponent is going to do, allowing the wearer to counter attacks before they even happen.  With this technology, Eric Roberts first gets a visual presented to him of Hayate kicking his butt up and down the floor, but is able to take that information and turn it around to knock Hayate around a few times.

Which is a pretty cool idea if a) it wasn't limited to eyewear that could be smacked off your face with a Nerf bat, and b) didn't exist in a world where people have guns.

Eric Roberts kicks Hayate through a wall, sending him plummeting to his death, except (surprise!) Ayane swoops out of nowhere, grabs him, and saves him.  This leads to a touching, heartfelt reunion complete with a passionate kiss as Ayane tells him how happy she is to find out he's alive, and conveniently leaves out the fact that she's spent the whole movie trying to murder his sister.

Oh, and Max manages to unlock the vault with, I kid you not, a sliding block puzzle.  Seriously, I cannot love this movie any more than I already do.

Eric Roberts brings up a holographic display of people he's trying to sell the technology to, including what appears to be General Zod (or an evil, older Wil Wheaton), James Cameron, two guys who think wearing shades on a screen are cool, a guy I have no analogy for, and one of the Lone Gunmen from the X-Files.

Can I just say I love it that a tournament not only has its own island, but apparently its own computer operating system?

Roberts starts downloading (I think you mean "uploading," movie) the software to the buyers (who apparently already made down payments before seeing what it could do or whether it worked), but Weatherby is able to intercept it and halt the transfer.  Not only does he stop it, but the transfer status bar then starts going in reverse.  Weatherby also decides to call in the cavalry by going to the CIA website, which prompts this message to pop up:

That's either a really efficient system, or one that isn't very well thought out.  Wil Wheaton looks concerned as opposed to angry.

Roberts contacts Bayman to get the money from the vault.  While Weatherby tries to free the other fighters, Helena heads to intercept Roberts.  Max, meanwhile, is confronted by Bayman in the vault and taken out in one punch.

Helena stalls Roberts for all of ten seconds before he breezes by her, and Weatherby gets his face smacked into the keyboard (complete with several keys sticking to it when his head gets pulled back up), letting Roberts set up the self destruct sequenc- sorry, the "DOA SELF DESTRUCT."  Yes, the screen actually says that.

Fortunately, Weatherby is able to reach up with the last of his strength and tap two keys, allowing the procedure to unlock the cages to complete.

I'm not going to give a play by play of everything that happens next, except to say that the women all get to fight Eric Roberts, and all the guys wind up fighting Bayman.  The guy fight is kind of dumb, with Bayman beating people up with duffel bags full of cash, but since Bayman's fights so far have consisted of shoes and a single punch, I forgive it.  The fight that the women have against Roberts is a lot more interesting, as he manages to hold his own against all four of them despite their use of CGI ladders and chains to battle him.

However, finally, someone manages to knock the sunglasses off of Roberts, and I busted up laughing at the moment everything went to slow motion and he says, "Oh no."  Really.  Who would've thought that such a technology wouldn't be invincible?  Maybe contact lenses next time, dude.

Oh, and there's an emergency exit that leads to a water slide, and all of the women (and Hayate) need to jump about twenty stories off the side of a bamboo tower to land in the ocean below.  Nobody dies.  Well, except Roberts, who is caught in a fireball after Hayate punches him in the foot (seriously) and Kasumi sticks one of those little needles in his neck to paralyze him.

After everybody hits water, we go back up to the surface to see a boat skipping across the waves containing the pirates from Tina's introduction as they look for salvage/survivors they can pillage.  Unfortunately, the first person they find is a conscious Tina, and I busted out laughing again as they all instantly get "aw, man" expressions on their faces.

Everybody gets on the boat and starts engaging in extensive make-out sessions (except for Tina and Kasumi, which I'm sure made Bass very sad somewhere) as the credits start to roll.  But not before we get a quick montage of shots from earlier in the movie featuring each one of the female leads as if to summarize the movie for anybody who came in late.

Oh, but we get an epilogue!  Apparently the five women all decided to team up to reclaim Kasumi's home at the top of the mountain and now need to fight three hundred ninjas.

Seriously, how did this not get a sequel?

The Good:

This movie is just pure joy.  It doesn't try to be a serious movie, like so many video game themed movies try to be (see: Alone In The Dark, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil), but also doesn't play things down to the lowest common denominator to make the audience feel like they're being insulted (Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros.).  It knows what reputation the games have, and is willing to just go with it and feature fighting, hot women, and volleyball.

It's also amazingly bright and colorful, making it actually fun to watch instead of dark and gritty like so many movies and games are (see again: Mortal Kombat).  The bamboo forest is vividly green, the rainy beach is bright and colorful, even the fight in the science lab had enough decent lighting that you weren't left trying to figure out what you're watching.

Some of the acting is also much, much better than I expected.  Jaime Pressly as Tina was probably the best casting job the movie did, able to switch between firm adult to her father's daughter ("Not now, Dad!  I'm in my underwear!") at the drop of a hat.  Holly Valance made Christie, a character I formerly wasn't that fond of, into possibly one of my favorites in the film.  She seems to have the most coherent plot and motivation through the whole film besides "kick people in face, repeat step one" and brings a lightness and fun to every scene she's in.  My only regret with her is that she went by her stage name instead of her real name, because this role calls for someone named "Holly Candy."

Natassia Malthe was a pretty decent Ayane, managing to switch from deadly assassin to imputent teenager at the blink of an eye, and considering how other characters were treated, I really didn't mind it so much.  Oh, and there's Eric Roberts, who's great at being Eric Roberts.

The fights are very well choreographed, and considering the cast only really had two professional martial artists in it, everybody did their moves very well.

The Bad:

Man, Devon Aoki was sure bland.  You'd think the person with the biggest emotional stake in the film (and arguably the real main character) wouldn't look like she stayed up all night before and was trying to just keep from falling asleep on her feet while acting.  There's not even any real energy in most of her lines except for her sudden "I have to go!"

Some of the CGI looked a bit cheap.  The flower petals during Weatherby's little fantasy, the chains during the final battle scene, even the volleyball in the volleyball sequences was noticeably fake during a few sequences.

I wasn't that thrilled with Zack, but not enough to begrudge the actor.  He felt mostly like filler, just obnoxious enough to remind you he's in the film, but not obnoxious enough for you to really want to see anything bad happen to him.  They really should have played him up as a total jerk instead of just that guy at the bar who won't take a hint.

Oh, and the cheesecake and exploitation were bit much, but considering the target audience that's like blaming the Final Destination franchise for being too much like a giant Rube Goldberg device.


This movie has enough fun moments between gun sound effects, zany fights, and fun acting that I really do love it.  I can't feel bad about watching this movie at all, which amazed me considering I went in expecting to hate it with every fiber of my being on the basis that I don't really enjoy the games and I expect every video game movie to be as terrible as every other one that came out.

I want to point out that while the cheesecake and exploitation might be extremely high, I honestly think there were more positive role models for women in here than there were for men.  Sure, the female characters get captured at one point, but only after the "biggest, toughest male ninja" has been trapped for a year and the star of Ninja Gaiden got taken out first.  Helena protects Weatherby, Max can't do the robbery without Christie, and Tina earns the respect of her father and of Zack as a woman and a fighter, not just a daughter or a piece of eye candy.

It's really the women who drive the whole plot of the film (what plot there is), they aren't just pushed along by it.  They own every scene they're in, and even when the cheesecake is cranked up to eleven they seem willing to use it, not be defined by it.  Again, the only real nudity I can remember is the side of Christie's chest and Zack's brief full frontal, so I think in the end it might tip a bit in favor of the women.

The storyline could've easily been done more male centric, having it be Hayabusa and Hayate looking for Kasumi, Max keeping Christie around for fun instead of needing her, and...well, okay, you probably wouldn't have worked as well with Bass instead of Tina as the star, but still, that could have been three guys leading instead of four women.

Maybe I need to go back and watch some other video game movies I skipped over, in case they're better than I heard.  I mean, really, how bad could King of Fighters really be?

1 comment:

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