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It's a film one star would just as soon you didn't see

June 18, 2007|Mark Olsen | Special to The Times

It started more than 1 1/2 years ago when a trailer showed up online -- a cluster of lithe, barely clad women jumping, running, fighting and kicking their way through various scenarios, locales and bad guys. Based on a videogame, "DOA: Dead or Alive" looked to be the ne plus ultra of pop-action confectionery, a film so knowingly, willfully ridiculous as to make "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" look like a Pedro Costa film by comparison.

In other words, a film starring Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Eric Roberts and some other people as directed by Cory ("The Transporter") Yuen promised to be the Greatest Movie Ever Made, if your diet consists mostly of Bomb Pops and Dr. Pepper.

Having already been released internationally, "DOA: Dead or Alive" finally arrives on these shores with a resounding thud courtesy of the same distributor that put out "Grindhouse." And although "DOA" has a certain fast-and-loose spirit that makes it a modern equivalent to the cheapie exploitation films to which "Grindhouse" pays homage, it also comes with such a weirdly sanitized, digitally derived sheen that it never achieves anything like the wild irreverence of its predecessors.

The fighting is just OK, the bikinis reveal just enough but never too much, and nobody really gets killed or hurt, and what kind of fighting film is that? In what is certainly the film's signature moment, a woman in a bath towel fights off her would-be captors. With a single movement, she sends a bra and a gun flying into the air and shimmies her way into the falling undergarment as she deftly catches the gun. Kind of cute, a little funny and a little prudish -- that's the movie in a nutshell.

Since shooting the film, Pressly has gone on to an Emmy nomination for the NBC sitcom "My Name Is Earl." She was recently quoted as saying she wasn't upset by the delays in "DOA" reaching American theaters and somewhat hoped it never came out at all.

Hard to blame her. Does "DOA: Dead or Alive" deliver on the promise of its trailer, even within the prescribed parameters of its demographic and ambitions? Not even close. Is it a way to while away a summer afternoon? Arguably. Does it meet the implied bikini quota? Perhaps on that point alone, it can be considered a success.


"DOA: Dead or Alive." MPAA rating: PG-13 for pervasive martial arts and action violence, some sexuality and nudity. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. In general release.

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