EmptyDOA: Dead or Alive
NEW YORK — The Weinstein brothers could have saved themselves a whole lot of money and trouble if they had skipped "Grindhouse" and simply concentrated on this video game adaptation, which closely resembles in form and spirit the '70s programmers so currently in vogue. Seen opening day — forget about press screenings, of course — at the less atmospheric but geographically correct AMC Empire 42nd Street Theater, "DOA: Dead or Alive" did manage to produce feelings of giddy fun, if only briefly.
Voyeurs — I mean, teenage boys — will no doubt relish the real-life incarnations of the computer-generated vixens participating in this ripoff, er, homage, to "Enter the Dragon." They include Princess Kasumi (Devon Aoki, whose modeling background is apparent in her complete lack of facial expression), a modern-day Japanese princess who's clearly seen "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" a few too many times; Tina (Jaime Pressly), a wrestler coping with daddy issues in the form of her Hulk Hogan-like father; and Christie (Holly Valance), a saucy master thief capable of fending off a roomful of cops and donning her bra at the same time.
All have been invited to participate in the titular contest on a remote island, a fighting tournament run by an evil mastermind, Donovan, who has more than athletic competition in mind. He's played by Eric Roberts, providing this effort with his estimable B-movie cred.
The plot is but an excuse for a series of elaborately choreographed fight sequences featuring a combination of digital and wire work that somehow manages to feel completely fake despite the obvious physical exertions of its well-trained cast. Director Corey Yuen did far more impressive work with his earlier effort, "The Transporter" (not to mention screenwriter J.F. Lawton, once Oscar-nominated for "Pretty Woman").
Of far more interest to the target audiences will be the costumes, or lack thereof. Wasting no opportunity to display its leading actresses' nubile physiques as unadorned as possible, the film is like a Maxim magazine come to life. The highlight, naturally, is the bikini beach volleyball sequence, demonstrating again the virtues of this much-maligned sport.