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Screen Savers: Dead Or Alive

Screen Savers: Dead Or Alive


Screen Savers
The Arcade is on duty to relieve you of your curiosity about those movies, games and books that are truly cringe-worthy. No need to pick them up, because we’re doing it for you! Cringe be damned, as we dive into the worst of the worst for your benefit. Don’t say we’ve never done anything for you. This is Screen Savers!


Dead or Alive is our movie this week. Which is coincidental in the fact that I had to make sure I still had a pulse after watching.

What’s it about?

A fighting tournament held on an island. It’s based on the popular beat ‘em up video game series of the same title.
Our main protagonists are three of the top fighters in the world. Christie (Holly Valance) is a thief and an assassin who wants to kill her former partner in crime. Kasumi (Devon Aoki) is a ninja and a princess who wants to kill her dishonourable brother. Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly) is a professional wrestler who wants to beat up her dad. The reasoning for all three of these being heated rivalries in their respective fields.
Kasumi, Christie and Tina are said to represent the best in their particular fighting styles, thus making them perfect candidates for the Dead or Alive tournament. The event is held once a year and invites are sent out to the cream of the crop in order to decide who can punch and kick better than other people. Coincidentally, our three leads find that their respective goals are within reach as their unresolved issues in life can all be decided by winning the tournament. The top prize for the event is 10 million dollars, but only if you first jump out of a plane to secure your spot in the tournament bracket. Shenanigans ensue and eventually they find out that the man who brought them to the mysterious island to make them fight has a hidden evil agenda. Shocker!

Who is in it?

Holly Valance revisits her previous role on Neighbours as a source of anti-expression devoid of entertaining qualities. Unfortunately, Valance is featured heavily in DoA, despite her performance being equivalent to a graduate of an acting college that exclusively targets gigs in yoghurt commercials. The dreamlike state that she produces adds little sincerity to the character of Christie. It is difficult to inject a personality into a character from a fighting game of this kind, but there is ample room to create a general idea of what they could potentially be like. There is very little effort to speak of here. Valance doesn’t chew scenery, she becomes a part of it. Thankfully, our other leads shine much brighter. Jaime Pressly (who you may remember from My Name is Earl) does a stellar job portraying a sassy southern grapple-master. Believability is key. In a movie devoid of a lot of believable aspects, Jaime brings a fire in her performance that is much-needed to keep you from losing interest. The same can be said for Devon Aoki, who firmly commits to her stern demeanour despite the silly hair and cliché back story that she has to work with.
Truthfully, a story like this is only as good as its villain. The man behind the tournament, known as Donovan (the least intimidating name imaginable), is played by Eric Roberts. The aforementioned chewing the scenery is placed firmly at the feet of Roberts as a poorly wrapped gift. His villain is laughably over the top, yet somehow still underwhelming. His main motivation being incredibly childish and absolutely absurd. This one is a shame, as Eric Roberts is (usually) a very good actor. Every actor has that one role that they want to forget. I’m guessing this is his.

Is it really that bad?

Yes. It really is that bad. A premise of this variety can be done well in the sense that the characters need flesh to thrive in front of an audience. Mortal Kombat illustrates a way to maintain the balance between a really cheesy idea and a likable main cast. MK is not a good movie, but it is an entertaining one. DOA is an accurate adaptation of a game that has barely any plot. When transitioning from console to silver screen, there needs to be meat on the bare bones. Directly applying the game’s content does not work in this context. The script had to breathe life into what little there was. I get the reasoning behind this movie. It is billed to make a quick buck by combining a loose martial arts narrative with beautiful actors and actresses. The intention is fight-pornography. A showcase of fights is not necessarily a bad idea, if the choreography is well done. Sadly, the focus is drawn towards those who have the least fighting experience in the cast. Bad choreography can often be disguised by good editing, which is equally not present here. The fights are jarring, sped up and amateur looking.
It is a glaring flaw in a fighting movie to have your sole purpose be negated by your own editing department and by inadequate demonstrations of skill by largely miscast actors. Maybe the real reason that you should stick around is the plot on hand?
Resolutions are rushed to get to the ‘twist’, which is that the tournament is run by a tyrant who wants to kill all of the competitors and use the knowledge gained defeating them to take over the world. What way could he possibly do this, you ask? Magic Sunglasses, obviously.
Tiny robots were injected into each player to monitor their status throughout the fights. This displays a health bar that determines when a fighter will lose based on science… or something. From this monitoring process, Donovan is able to predict the fight outcomes using his magic sunglasses that contain the data of the DOA competitors. This leads to our main protagonists having to kung-fu fight him to save the world. Spoiler Alert: They win and I lose because I sat through the whole film.

What tournament fighter movie should I watch instead?

Mortal Kombat, Bloodsport, Never Back Down or Enter The Dragon.
Dead or Alive is stated to be a loose adaptation of the games, but I honestly think it is a great interpretation of going through a single player boss rush with little context as to why these people want to fight, outside of money or to kill a random person. These characters could have been explored and they could have had depth. Alas, DoA is a goofy wonder of the fighting genre that’ll have you reeling until your health bar is fully depleted.