Friday, June 15, 2007

REVIEW: D.O.A: Dead or Alive (2006)

So, "Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer" absolutely, positively sucks. A disasterpiece. A film who's badness will be cemented as scripture (in html format, of course) in the Book of Geek by the end of the weekend. You should not waste you're money on it. Not on opening weekend, in any case, and maybe not until DVD or cable, honestly.

If you take my advice (and you really, really should - this movie might actually be bad enough to shorten the lifespan of certain viewers) however, that leaves you with a problem: What DO you see this weekend? In wide release, the only other mass-advertised alternative looks to be "Nancy Drew," which I'm hearing "okay" things about. And some of you are lucky enough to have "Eagle Vs. Shark," "Fido" or "Black Sheep" playing near you. But a surprising number of us, though it's been a BIT of a wait, have the alternative of this:



Yes, "D.O.A." finally comes to the U.S. I saw it (as did a lot of us) back when the full version turned up on Google Video, but held back a review in case it actually opened theatrically. Now that it has, I can tell you that it's a massively-watchable goof-off of a B-movie, a bouncy hybrid of Jackie Chan and Russ Meyer silliness, and absolutely worth seeing. It's a good time, plain and simple.

The premise, borrowed (loosely) from the video game series, is the old saw of a mixed martial-arts fighting competition held on an island resort. The gimmick this time around is that the vacationing fighters are fitted with GPS wristbands that locate one-another and assign fights at the (seemingly) random discretion of the contest's benefactor (Eric Roberts! No, really!!!) and thus can break out "anywhere at any time." Most of the game's (then) most-recent roster of characters turn up, though the focus is squarely on the five female fighters - the games, y'see, are famous for the startling attractiveness of it's women. Naturally, everyone arrives with a backstory and an agenda (my favorite: The American father/daughter pro wrestlers who've come to prove the legitimacy of their "fake sport" skills in real combat) and Eric Robert's goofy bad guy has a sinister "master plan." Much elaborate wire-fu, slapstick beatdowns, surprise alliances and gratuitious fan service in the form of rain-fights, bikinis and volleyball interludes ensue.

There's no universe in which "D.O.A." is a masterpiece, but it's FUN. A roster of colorful, comic-book style crazy characters beating the snot out of eachother under the direction of martial-arts legend Corey Yuen, five of them being outrageously gorgeous women dolled up like anime fetish dolls. The girls are tons of fun, with Jamie Pressley and Devon Aoki ending up the most endearing thanks to their sharp sense of humor as to what sort of movie they're in and how they ought to be behaving (Pressley could easily get by as a comic actress even if she didn't look like, well, like Jamie Pressley.) Every one of them is better-looking, and a better actress, than ... oh, let's say, Jessica Alba.

This is a big, gonzo B-movie, but in it's full-on embrace of it's own unpretentious wackiness it delivers full-on what so many of it's bigger-budget Summer Movie cousins lack: It's an absolute blast to watch. The gals are sexy as hell, the locales are 60s James Bond lovely, the bad guys are nutty and the fights are plentiful and imaginative. The flight-of-fancy action silliness of the "Transporter" flicks smashes together with the retro-campy sex appeal of the first "Charlie's Angels" like chocolate and peanut-butter. It's PURE exploitation, but it works. It delivers. You'll see a dozen "better" movies this summer, but you may not see many that are this FUN.

FINAL RATING: 8/10