In my loftier moments I’ve often wondered if there are any truly redeeming merits to be found in writing about movies. Trying to gauge an art form is a tenuous business, especially when most of our intellectual traditions accept relativism to the degree that ours does. Often film reviews are mired in a subjectivity that bashes or defends their charge based on expectation, personal preference, or any myriad of reasons that can’t rightly fit into an objective mold, even if we assume one exists at all.
To further muddle things, what does one make of a film’s self-consciousness, of its actively choosing style or content that can’t help but draw derision from those who’d judge it against? Is it ridiculous to take a subject matter seriously when those responsible had no intention of extending the viewer the same courtesy?
My point in bringing all this up — DOA: Dead or Alive, a film based on a series of fighting games, is so bad it defies description. Truly, there’s not one line of dialogue that doesn’t grate in your head like bagpipes in a garbage disposal, not one cheap, gratuitous shot of nubile flesh that doesn’t make your eyes roll, not one plot incongruity that doesn’t make you question the existence of a benevolent deity.
The plot is so repellant that I’m not going to waste precious seconds of my life rehashing it. Suffice to say: three women, all of whom are ambulatory tits with no higher-brain function, compete in a fighting tournament and kung-fu kick the Christ out of each other while an evil Eric Roberts (of-fucking-course it’s Eric Roberts) plans to take over the world with sunglasses that can predict the future. Also, Jaime Pressly is top-billed. It’s so ridiculous it just might have worked …
The thing is, there are already hordes of apologists for Dead or Alive who are positively hailing the film for exactly the same reasons I would decry it, mostly those primordial twats who haunt the IMDb message boards: “This movie isn’t trying to win any awards, so why not have fun with it JAYKAYLOLBBQ?” It sounds reasonable, sure, but I personally have a hard time having “fun” with a film that causes me to hate the rest of humanity for tacitly endorsing said fun in such vapid, visceral terms. If you want bikinied bimbos, get some porn; if you want ludicrous kung-fu violence and its accompanying aesthetic, play the same video game this crap is based on; if you want to see Eric Roberts ever work again, please keep that knowledge to yourself and hide your shame from the rest of the world until you’re dead.
Self-conscious stupidity is still stupidity, people, and Dead or Alive is so stupid it would give ass-cancer to lab rats. It’s too big a risk to say that in the proper context this film could be enjoyed, because that context could range from sheer mental ineptitude to the imbibement of lethal quantities of alcohol. Is it fair to ask someone to effectively cripple their cerebrum in the off chance that they would maybe derive some pleasure from this ignominy? I fucking hope not.
Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.
DOA: Dead or Alive / Phillip Stephens
Film | June 13, 2007 | Comments ()