Whatever their shortcomings as entertainment, video games have one terrific advantage. Whey you louse them up horribly, you can hit a button and start over again.
Unfortunately, though it's based on a popular video game, "DOA: Dead or Alive," is just a movie. Sort of.
The script doesn't waste much effort on storytelling. Movies like this have a formula, not a plot. A rapid-fire opening establishes quick backstories for the film's four babe-a-licious heroines and draws them into a martial arts battle for a $10 million prize. Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly of TV's "My Name is Earl"), Helena Douglas (Sarah Carter), Christie Allen (Holly Valance) and Kasumi (Devon Aoki, "Sin City") toss their hair and flare their nostrils while veteran Hong Kong action director Corey Yuen ("The Transporter") hustles them through repetitive kung fu battles choppily edited to hide their lack of martial arts skill. The throbbing techno-rock soundtrack blasts so loud you can't hear yourself think, which in these circumstances is an advantage.
The combat is fairly good-natured and tame for most of the mercifully brief 87-minute running time. The film stays safely within the bounds of its PG-13 rating. There are occasional bone-crunching sound effects, but no one bruises and no blood is shed. Heroes and villains are kicked across the room and crash into (or through) walls, only to bounce up and continue fighting.
This strains credibility past the snapping point when battalions of samurai swordsmen hack and slash with wild abandon, and no one suffers so much as a paper cut. None of the jackhammer fisticuffs is as painful as lines like "If you leave the compound, I an honor bound to kill you."
Eric Roberts, sporting a nefarious smirk, hippie pageboy and silk Chinese pajamas, plays the organizer of the tournament. His scheme is to record the fighters' best moves and sell them via computer encoding to an international array of villains, as if gnashing, snarling and grunting were state secrets.
As the film plods to its predictable end more than a few hands will itch for a joystick to urge the action along a little faster, but to no avail. "DOA" is deadly dull.
'DOA: Dead or Alive'
Starring: Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Eric Roberts Directed by: Corey Yuen
Rated PG-13 for pervasive martial arts and action violence, some sexuality and nudity.