Judge David Johnson once took third place in a world fighting championship. He was later stripped of his honor when his urine tested positive for bovine growth hormone.
The director of The Transporter tackles the popular Tecmo video game franchise known most for the physics-defying, too-heavy anatomy of its female characters. When you're dealing with that kind of rich mythos, how can you go wrong?
Facts of the Case
The world's greatest fighters are summoned to a remote island to participate in the elite Dead or Alive tournament, the winner walking away with bragging rights and a hefty $10 million fight purse.
Headlining the all-star lineup are wrestler Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly, My Name is Earl), shifty cat burglar Christie (Holly Valance) and renegade ninja princess Kasumi (Devon Aoki). They'll have their fearsome combat skills tested when they're matched up with a slew of familiar faces from the video game, but the real challenge will come when the sinister organizer, Donovan (Eric Roberts), unveils the true purpose of the tournament.
I'm a fan of the Dead or Alive video game fighting series this movie is based on, and I can easily say that the feature translation is about as an accurate depiction of the pixilated high jinks of its source material than any other video-game-to-movie translation I've seen. Yeah, that's not really a compliment.
Here's what both the move and games share:
A Plot that Makes No Sense
Right, me neither.
Frantic, Over-Stylized Combat
I know it's counter to the female empowerment vibe that's going on in the film, but the truth is, the most exciting bouts featured the men, obviously trained in martial arts. Saying that, I will acknowledge that the ladies, either through their own athleticism or clever camera-work or both, displayed a nice command of the action scenes. Theirs were just more visual effects-driven, and I'm not feeling that stuff these days.
DOA is corny, action-packed and nonsensical, and the atmosphere throughout the runtime feels just like the game. So yeah, it's an incredibly honest translation. But here's the problem: I got to actually play the video game. That's where the value came from. Here, passively watching the cheesiness unfold leaves much to be desired. But at least no one takes it seriously. And what the heck is with Eric Roberts' hair? It looks like someone button-holed a timber wolf pelt to his skull.
The movie looks nice; the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen does the robust color work a service. For sound, the 5.1 surround mix pounds, with the relentless techno music that accompanies each fight capable of summoning the police to your doorstep if you've got the gear to handle it. The extras cupboard is meagerly stocked, sporting only the trailer and an 11-minute making-of promo doc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Nerd alert! My man Ryu Hayubusa, the badass from the aforementioned Ninja Gaiden has his moments, but overall I do not agree with his portrayal in the film. Awkward and goofy, the guy is less the bloodletting killing machine from the Tecmo universe and more George Michael Bluth.
The best thing I can say about DOA is that it's brainless action with beautiful women swinging swords at each other's faces. But it is really goofy. If you're not currently going through male puberty, the potential for entertainment is miniscule.
Stick with the game. At least you can control the fights, and, if you're really lonely, pause it as just the right moment for maximum polygonal titillation.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
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