Why it works on some level is because it essentially is admitting from start to finish that it is a vehicle for a video game concept. There is no attempt to build a lengthy, leaden mythology that explains why there is a need for characters to fight. Martial artists – be they Japanese ninja princesses, high-end thieves, or professional wrestlers – are going to fight; why not be honest and just have them in a contest where there is not much else going on.
|There are people who see Aoki and think, "Maximum ugly."|
The male cast gets to play supporting role to the capable female characters, mostly to good comic effect. Again, this isn't high art, and it may not even be art, but it is slightly more than mildly entertaining. Eric Roberts, long removed from his Best of the Best (1989 for the original, 1993 for the sequel) days, looks comfortable and oddly believable as the bad guy who has a technological edge in his fighting style. Steve Howey gets to play sweet and (a restrained kind of) goofy, which are strengths for him. A few others populate the screen – Robin Shou, star of two Mortal Combat films (1995, 1997) gets a bit part as a pirate – but they are only there to serve the ladies.
|Sure, why not play volleyball before fighting for $1 million?|
Everyone involved seemed to acknowledge that trying to make D.O.A. more than it is would only weigh it down and make the ridiculousness of the concept even more glaring, and it wouldn't give the audience what they want to see. The movie isn't as crisp as it could have been. The ladies don't have fight acting down to a science, but it looks decent enough – better than most Western action films. It also relies too heavily on the wire harnesses and overdone choreography that was out of style by 2006, but it at least has a good energy to it.
In the realm of bad movies that are fun to watch, D.O.A. is one of the better ones. More than that, it is also quite short (about 6 of its 87 minute running time are the closing credits). It is digestible and light. When compared to how other video game titles have been mangled as feature films, this is a masterpiece; it never has the audience thinking it is anything but an adaptation – one that actually enjoys the source material.