DOA: Dead or Alive is schlocky cheese in its purest form. This is a movie that goes beyond plot holes to a place of raw dream logic, as it hops from one impossible situation to another,all for the sake of providing its audience with a continuous stream of drool-inducing, brain-melting absurdity.
DOA opens with the view of a Japanese temple. Inside, princess Kasumi learns of her brother’s supposed death, then tears off to investigate, risking an honour killing in the process. As she leaves, Kasumi encounters an electronic super-shuriken which works as an invitation to the fighting tournament “DOA.”
The shuriken is the first indication we’re given that Kasumi lives in something meant to be, or at least resemble, the real and modern world. The fact that Kasumi lives entirely unlike any human being actually dwelling in Japan is never explained or even recognized. The audience is left to simply accept that this is how things are in DOA world. And why shouldn’t they? After all, it’s more fun this way.
From Kasumi, DOA goes on to introduce a number of other agile, able, and profoundly attractive female fighters by giving us glimpses into their lives: one’s a pro wrestler, another a high-class thief. Each is similarly invited via shuriken.
Eventually, these ladies, and many other characters of supreme fighting talent, find themselves on a private jet to “DOA Island,” ostensibly somewhere over Asia. The group is informed that they will be competing in a $10 million fighting tournament (but no questions, please), and they must sky-dive down to the location immediately. Of course, everyone does just that.
As the plot of DOA unfolds, more questions, and more obvious gaps in logic pass by unnoticed by the film. It seems this is a regularly occurring tournament which was started by Fame Douglas and Dr. Victor Donovan, the latter of whom is still alive. As for why they got this thing going in the first place, how they made their money, and what DOA Island actually is are all lingering mysteries left unexplained.
A few more hefty splashes of cliché, and the rest of the movie pretty much writes itself. There’s the shadowy villain (Donovan), swarms of faceless Asian servants/warriors, a loud-mouthed black guy, a giant computer nerd who spies on female competitors, a fighting tournament which is obviously not going to end cleanly, and some money somewhere that everyone is after.
It turns out that Donovan’s secret plan was to harvest the skills of fighters via nanobots, and feed this knowledge into a pair of magic (sorry, I mean “high tech”) sunglasses which endow the wearer with the combined powers of these people.
All of this is made possible by the technical wizardry of Weatherby, the lone tech man of DOA Island. [Spoiler alert] Of course, Weatherby falls for one of DOA‘s many ladies, and can’t abide Donovan’s evil anyway, so he reports the scheming villain to the CIA. Why the CIA would really care, or be motivated enough to go after Donovan (who seems to live on his own mini-country/island anyway) is unclear. I can’t help but think the CIA would have been more likely to show up as a potential customer than adversary. In any case, the threat is enough to prompt Donovan to cue his island up for self destruction, which results in a massive explosion that kills no one but him. The end. [/end spoilers]
DOA: Dead or Alive struggled to elicit much emotion from me. While it’s zaniness and camp value keep the kind of boredom away which killed Chun-Li, it also doesn’t take itself seriously enough to warrant much mockery. This is one of the most forgettable movies I’ve seen, like an action-y Saturday morning cartoon that fades from memory as soon as it’s over.