Saturday, March 23, 2013

Double Impact (1991)

Director: Sheldon Lettich
Notable Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Geoffrey Lewis, Alonna Shaw, Bolo Yeung

With Van Damme's career on the upswing already with underground hits and a few mainstream successes (like the fun "Death Warrant"), it wasn't long until he made it to bigger films. His first of these happens to be the rather odd "Double Impact." Although the general approach to the film is about as cliche as early 90s action films gets, the film pushes itself by forcing the gimmick of having Van Damme play two roles (as twin brothers) to help keep us interested. Strangely enough, it works half of the time. Not that he showcases any kind of great acting prowess here, nor has much a character arc for either role, but watching twice as much Van Damme in a movie certainly carries a B-grade action fun to it.

When a deal goes bad between a few wealthy business partners in Hong Kong, the parents on the receiving end of the bullet leave their twin sons in the world. Alex (Van Damme) is raised as an orphan in Hong Kong to become a rather ruthless street fighter. Chad (also Van Damme) has been raised by his 'Uncle' Frankie (Lewis) at a prestigious Martial Arts school. When Frankie learns about the conspiracy behind the twins' parents assassination, he brings them together in Hong Kong to take down the ruthless drug lord and business man that ruined their lives.

"Who wrote this crappy film?"
Twins separated at birth unite as a spin-kicking duo to take down a ruthless Hong Kong drug lord and a crooked business man? If that doesn't sound like a great silly plot for an action film...then you need to get your head examined. The twins idea is just so ridiculous. I mean, they do the hair differently on each one. They even explain the same accent on each one as one was raised in a French orphanage in Hong Kong (?!?!) and the other was raised as a child in France by his uncle. This shit just keeps getting better! And not only that, but he plays an asshole..for each role! One happens to be a preppy Californian asshole and the other one is a street thug tough guy asshole...but they are still assholes! And when they start nagging each other, it's like B-movie heaven was just created. There is nothing Van Damme does better than half way act as a diva for his films and he does it with glitz here.

Flex. Roll. Flex. Shoot. Flex.
Yeah, that last line was wrong. He does do one thing better than half act as a diva tough guy. Spin kicks. Director/co-writer Lettich seems to understand this. He plods the film along sort of brushing over enough details to get the film going and putting our heroes in some bad situations (even throwing in a weirdly underdeveloped love triangle that culminates in one twin getting drunk, leering, and kicking things during an imagined and very creepy love making sequence plugged with needless nudity), but he does give Van Damme a copious amount of situations to spin kick people. Even if the rest of the action is hum drum at best including some oddly placed slow motion bits and a rather uneventful fight between Van Damme and Bolo Yeung, it's hard not to be entertained by just how often the film piles on the action cheese and then spices it with relentless spin kicking. It's like a catch phrase for Van Damme and "Double Impact" uses it endlessly.

Whatever you do, do not make a drinking game out of his spin kicks. It's suicide.
One thing that did impress was just how tight the film looked. Lettich might not have had the best script to work with here or the best actors to get the job accomplished, but the production values of the film seemed pretty expansive even compared to Van Damme's previous two 90s action films. The sets are relatively cool, in a B-action way considering its like an abandoned resort, some shanty ships, and a weird dance club, and when Lettich wants to add some fun and tension into the film it works. It's not the best, but I certainly wasn't expecting the best.

"Double Impact" is a cheesy action film that relies on us to just have fun with its two Van Dammes are better than one gimmick. If you are willing to ride with its outrageous concept and sometimes silly approach to it, the film is uproariously fun. It has a few great action bits, the comedy is awkward, and Van Damme being an asshole to himself is worth the price of purchase. This is not a film for everyone, but I sure had a blast with it.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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