So there’s a tournament that’s being hosted by Eric Roberts. This tournament features the best fighters from the entire planet, or at least, that’s what we’re told. Our leads are a bunch of females, all of whom have a paper-thin back-story just because they need more reason to join the tournament than the $10 million prize. One of them is looking for her lost brother, one of them wants to steal the money — or something like that — while the third wants to prove that she can actually fight, and that just because she’s a professional wrestler doesn’t mean that she can’t fight. This is DOA: Dead or Alive‘s set-up.

I don’t really get the motivations behind the final two characters. I mean, why steal the money when you could just win the tournament? Or is she trying to steal in addition to the prize money? I’m not sure, and it isn’t ever explained. And then there’s the one who is a professional wrestler. She can fight, we learn that in her introduction scene, but is that reason enough to join a tournament that you could die in? Is this even recognized worldwide?

However, she won’t die, and neither will anyone else. Even though the word “dead” is in the title, I don’t recall a single deaths from the fights. Nor did I see any blood. I guess taking multiple punches and kicks to all of your extremities is okay, as long as you’re in a PG-13 movie, because nothing bad can really happen to you. The tournament doesn’t even seem to have consistent rules. You’re supposed to knock out your opponent, and the only rule is that you have to do it with your body; no weapons are permitted to be used. This was explicitly mentioned. But then both of these are broken. Chairs and other objects in the surrounding area are used, while characters don’t even need to be knocked out in order to lose. There’s one fight in particular that takes place on a raft, where the two combatants mutually decide that whoever falls off the raft first loses.

But I guess that when your tournament host is Eric Roberts, and there is more going on that meets the eye, you’ve got better things to do than worry about your contestants breaking a few rules. After all, you’ve got a nefarious plan to concoct. A plan that is more absurd than all of the wire-fighting, gravity-defying fighting that came before it. Let’s just say that it’s a moronic idea and plot device, but one that isn’t in the least bit surprising.

But you know what? I kind of had a good time with Dead or Alive. It’s incredibly goofy, the plot is ridiculous and the fighting is unrealistic, but it was still fun. There’s something to be said about being so silly and terrible that it winds up being a joy to watch. Maybe a “joy” is a slight exaggeration — there are too many problems with the film for me to have an excellent time — but I didn’t hate the experience as a whole.

Among these problems is the CGI used in, well, most of the scenes. Sometimes it’s okay — when we don’t notice it — but most of the time, it’s noticeable and takes away from the action that’s occurring on-screen. CGI can be used effectively and realistically, but that wasn’t the case here. This was, for an action film, a lower budgeted film, and the CGI suffers because of this.

The action scenes, when not throwing CGI at us, are actually quite entertaining. Even though they go against the rules set-up by the tournament, I enjoyed watching people beat the stuffing out of one another. Or at least hit each other a few times, because stuffing isn’t allowed to come out of anything but teddy bears in this movie. I’m not sure if it was the rating restrictions or because the CGI budget was already used up, but there is no blood at all in this movie, even when there clearly should be.

I often get tired of hand-to-hand combat, because there’s usually only so much you can do when having characters fight each other with just their fists and legs. Surprisingly, I didn’t get bored with them in this movie. This is largely thanks to how the characters don’t have to stay bound to the Earth, being able to leap 10+ feet in the air, do a double back flip, and then land a heel-kick to the face of their opponent. Each fight scene either changes things up, (like the aforementioned raft scene), or manages to out-do the previous fight. And since, I would wager anyway, 80% of this film has characters fighting one another, this is impressive.

What’s odd about the film is how its characters couldn’t stay consistent all the way through. Character development is something that good films need, but Dead or Alive‘s attempt to do this is to have them completely switch personalities part-way through, even though their reasoning for doing so is artificial. We have a hard time believing that, for instance, a character might join the “good guys”, just because he’s in love with one of the fighters on the island. Although, after looking over his crush of choice, maybe it becomes more believable.

In the end, DOA: Dead or Alive is trashy, but it’s still kind of enjoyable. It’s definitely not a good film, or one that you will probably want to readily admit to watching, but it’s fun. The fight scenes are actually quite entertaining, and since they take up the majority of the film’s runtime, you’re entertained for most of the time. The CGI is poor, the characters are shallow and inconsistent, and the plot is ridiculous, but since the fighting was well-done, I didn’t hate the experience.