The fifth best video game movie ever.
1 October 2006
There have actually been good video game movies.

By this I mean movies like "WarGames," "The Last Starfighter," "Cloak and Dagger" and "Tron" - movies that had video games at the core of the story but weren't based on real video games. I do not mean movies like "Mortal Kombat," not "Street Fighter," not "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life" and definitely not "Super Mario Bros." "DOA: Dead Or Alive" (produced by Paul W.S. Anderson, not a good sign - I've never forgiven him for "Mortal Kombat" and "Event Horizon") is from a real game, but it sucks less than most of its ilk. Not that that's saying much, because it's still something of a missed opportunity.

Never mind the plot - island princess Kasumi leaves her sanctuary to track down her brother at the Dead Or Alive tournament, wrestler Tina wants to prove that she's a real fighter, thief Christie is out to steal the cash, blah blah blah - the movie knows what counts; babes and brawls, and it's got lots of both of them. Devon Aoki (Kasumi), Jaime Pressly (Tina), Holly Valance (Christie), Sarah Carter (the adopted daughter of evil Eric Roberts) and Natassia Malthe (the bodyguard sworn to kill Kasumi for leaving) adequately fill the quota for the former - they even throw in a completely gratuitous volleyball game! - and whenever the movie threatens to be swamped under a serious story moment you can bet the swords will be flying and the booty will be kicked very soon.

The movie also has an endearingly tongue-in-cheek tone (which has to be courtesy primary screenwriter J.F. Lawton, he of "Pretty Woman," "Under Siege" and "VIP" fame) and it comes in at well under 90 minutes... but somehow it doesn't take off the way it should.

It's tempting to say it's because of the acting - Devon in particular behaves as if English is her fifth language, and Eric Roberts... well... - but who goes to movies like this for the acting? The problem is more to do with Cory Yuen's direction - the action's heavily stylized but at its most thrilling when it's filmed straightforward; no abrupt changes in speed, no overactive cameras. It's also a pity that the makers upped the "hard to take seriously" factor by including comical sound effects for blows; you never got that on "The A-Team," thankfully.

And ultimately it falls short on the guilty pleasure scale compared to the first "Charlie's Angels," although I did admittedly watch it after spending hours and hours on various buses AND after eating an entire spiced loaf by myself. I think I'd have liked it more if I had been a bit more alert... but "Bloodsport" for the "Zoo" generation is still preferable to "Bloodsport" for the Jean Claude Van Damme generation.

Flimsy but watchable.
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