The Curator of Schlock #36 by Jeffrey Shuster
DOA: Dead or Alive
Ninja Ninja Ninja
I remember an episode of Kung Fu The Legend Continues where the bad guy (who I also believe was Kwai Chang Caine’s half-brother) was gathering an army of reincarnated villains from Earth’s history. There was this one dude who was supposed to be the reincarnated Jack the Ripper and this lady who was supposed to be the reincarnated Lizzie Borden. Anyway, I think the bad buy had some magic pendant or bell, and was hoping to channel the forces of darkness to become all-powerful or something. Caine stops him and all is right with the world once again.
You know, super-villains in kung fu movies don’t always have to use sorcery to achieve their ends. I can think of no finer example than 2006’s DOA: Dead Or Alive from director Corey Yuen. In the movie, Dr. Victor Donovan (Eric Roberts) has opted for science as his means for world domination. Using nano-bots, he will record the fighting moves of the greatest martial artists from around the world and download them into a pair of sunglasses.
With those sunglasses, he’ll become the ultimate, unstoppable fighter. Before all that of course, he’ll need a tournament to lure the best fighters in the world to his island paradise.
And who are these martial artists? There’s Kasumi, a shinobi ninja princess (Devon Aoki) who leaves her ninja clan to attend DOA to find out what happened to her missing brother, Hayate. Hot on her trail is Ayane, a ninja assassin sworn to kill Kasumi if she leaves the clan. Another ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, follows Kasumi to the tournament to also investigate what happened to her brother. I think he was her brother’s best friend. He may also have a crush on Kasumi, but that neither here nor there.
We also have Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly), a superstar pro wrestler who wants to prove to the world that she isn’t fake.
Her father, Bass Armstrong (Kevin Nash) was also invited to the tournament and he doesn’t have a problem with being a superstar pro wrestler. They fight on a raft in the middle of a pond and Tina wins, moving herself up in the tournament. There’s also another contestant by the name of Zack who keeps flirting with her. She knocks him into a stone railing as a reward.
Let’s see. Who else? There’s Christie (Holly Valance), a master thief and assassin.
She and her lover, Matthew, have decided to attend the tournament because of the millions that lie hidden on the island somewhere. There’s also Helena Douglas (Sarah Carter), the daughter of the man who invented the nano-bots that will help Dr. Donovan take over the world. Dr. Donovan had Helena’s father murdered, but she doesn’t learn that until much later in the movie. One of the computer geeks has a big old crush on Helena. She also wears roller blades.
I guess I’m supposed to be going somewhere with this review, but there are just too many characters. Needless to say, Eric Roberts gets his butt kicked by the end of the movie.
Plus, there’s a scene where the lady fighters play volleyball on the beach, with an official DOA-labeled ball and net. What more could you ask for from a kung fu masterpiece?
Five Things I Learned from DOA: Dead or Alive
- Don’t let evil scientists inject you with nano-bots. They’re not doing it for your benefit.
- Supervillians tend to stash their cash in giant Buddha heads.
- Ninja assassins don’t mess around. They’ll actually try to kill you.
- If you see imaginary cherry blossoms float about in front of your eyes, it means you’re in love.
- Corey Yuen did the impossible. He made a movie out of the DOA Dead or Alive video games.
Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.