Based on the notorious fighting game series of the same name, Dead or Alive might just be one of the few spot on game-to-movie adaptations ever put to screen.
The set up to Dead or Alive is basic fight movie stuff — very much in the vein of Kickboxer or the first Mortal Kombat movie: Strangers from across the globe come together to wire-work it out in the “Dead or Alive” fighting tournament. The competition is funded by, yes, Eric Roberts. Which instantly means he’ll end up being the bad guy. Which, of course, he is. Although, I have to note that his character could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he’d have just learned martial arts himself.
Devon Aoki (Sin City) seems to take front and center of the production, but she really competes for the spotlight against actresses Sarah Carter (Falling Skies), Holly Valance (Taken), Natassia Malthe (Elektra), and Jaime Pressly (My Name Is Earl). Everyone of these performers are energetic and have clearly trained rigorously for this odd little b movie. In particular Pressly, who, even when opposite pro wrestler Kevin Nash, looks like she’s been benchpressing small countries in preparation for this role.
You have to thank director Corey Yuen for opting to highlight what makes Dead or Alive its own thing: The ladies. Even more surprisingly, while most directors would let this all devolve into softcore porn, Yuen never does.
DOA the video game is typically dismissed as the game with bouncing breast. Regardless of what you think of the game’s preceeding reputation, it is at its base an honest-to-God fighting game. Requiring players to fixate on move sets and combos. If a movie really wants to do the game justice then it had to really deliver some amazingly choreographed action. And this does thanks to Yuen, who is known primarily for being a martial arts filmmaker. Because of his experience with the genre, the female fighters are allowed to shine over the men. Aoki, Carter, Vallance, Malthe, and Pressly are dealing with a director highly adept at filming wire-stunts, and it shows. It takes well-treaded material that could’ve easily been dull and turns it into gravity-defying showmanship.