Three dangerous women: Christie (Holly Valance), Tina (Jamie Pressly), and Princess Kasumi (Devon Aoki), each facing their own personal demons, have been summoned to a far away island for the "D.O.A." fighting competition, run by the billionaire Donovan (Eric Roberts). Once there, the brutal game begins, but as the women begin to scrap their way through the rankings, a darker secret concerning the tournament is revealed. Now, with the help of an insider named Helena (Sarah Carter), the women must band together to stop those who want to harvest their might for evil.
"D.O.A." is based on a series a videogames that I have never played, but being male and of a certain age, have an apple-cheeked awareness of. Featuring scantily-clad women engaging in all sorts of fisticuffs and, er, volleyball, the game made a name for itself due to its violence and titillation factor, leaving the film adaptation wide open when it came to exploiting those possibilities.
Legendary action director Cory Yuen seems the proper man for the job. "D.O.A.," without having an enormous budget to work with, is one of the more visually cutting pictures I've seen in recent months; Yuen and his crew take great pains to inject the frame with a sense of life beyond the expected pow and zap. Hustling known Asian choreography goods, Yuen transforms the action into a nonstop opera of smacks, rarely letting up on the acceleration.
"D.O.A." doesn't feature much in the character development department and if you stop to consider the plot, it might induce hysterical blindness. Yuen is aware the gaming world doesn't lend itself to inspiring cinema, so he goes haywire on the action to compensate. The effect is a hyper film that keeps trucking forward at all costs, staging enough fights and PG-13 destruction to numb the viewer just enough so the pain of the script never reaches the brain. It's a quality I wish more action films took advantage of.
The extensive choreography is the real star of the show, giving each brawling tournament match-up a fizzy life of its own. Yuen spends an impressive amount of energy dreaming up new ways for the combatants to spank each other, coating each segment in the ideal amount of color and cartoon. After all, this is based on a video game experience, so reality doesn't ever enter the equation. "D.O.A." is meant to be a high-flying, low-cut, bloody-knuckled diversion, not a Eugene O'Neill adaptation. The picture gets the bone-breaking footage just right, and that's the best anyone could hope for with this source material.
The game is also noted for its insistence on the more blunt edges of femininity, and that's been successfully transported to the big screen as well. There's enough mild tease in "D.O.A." to power the drooling daydreams of the average 12-year-old boy for years to come; nothing explicit, just a wide range of tanned curves to best satisfy the sex appeal of the games. It's channeled best in a volleyball sequence that's the long overdue reversal of the legendary "Top Gun" skin detour, absent the lilting melodies of a young Kenny Loggins.
The film is short, but still Yuen backs himself into a corner toward the end of the film that prevents the candy premise from whizzing away like the unpredictable firework is was meant to be. Casting Eric Roberts as the baddie doesn't help the cause; the actor's kitten paws at menace register unrealistic at their best, insultingly imagined at their worst. The end of the film stumbles with a noticeable fatigue the earlier adventure lacked, as though Yuen lost interest in the lighting pulse of the film. It ends "D.O.A." on a tired note, but not a completely deflating one.
"D.O.A." is goofy beyond measure, and if the viewer goes into it with any expectation of substance or, at times, fundamental competence, they will be left with very little to show for their time spent. You have to come to this rock-n-roll fluff with an askew mind ready for a lighthearted backflip convention that mixes "Charlie Angels" and "Mortal Kombat" into a potent cocktail. It ain't high art, but with so many summer blockbusters taking pride in their absurd narrative complications to feel a sense of worth, it's nice to find something brain dead, but engaging on a shamefully base level.