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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Retro Review: Double Team (1997)

Double Team
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, Mickey Rourke, Paul Freeman, Natacha Lindinger
Genre: Action 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $11.4 million

Plot: An international spy teams up with an arms dealer to escape from a penal colony & rescue his family from a terrorist

'Action Euro-Trash & Hong Kong 90's Oddity That Feels Meh'

Jean-Claude Van Damme had always wanted to make and star in a martial arts action movie made and produced in Hong Kong and whilst he tried to replicate that with Double Team, after the tremendous Hard Target, it still feels as a run-of-the-mill and routine Van Damme effort.

Jack Quinn (Van Damme) is a French agent who quit the hectic life to settle down with his wife, who is now pregnant with their first child. Yet not long after, Jack is thrown back into the deep-end when terrorist Stavros (Mickey Rourke) has been found and needs to be brought down. With the help of the charismatic arms dealer, Yaz (Dennis Rodman), they set out to capture him. Only to later discover his wife & child have been kidnapped. 

This film is.... mindless, nonsensical and silly. It's a strange concoction of a spy-like, espionage film with action, but it feels very incoherent. 

With fight choreography from Sammo Hung and directed by Tsui Hark, who played the main baddie in 1985's Yes Madam! starring Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock, Double Team is a movie that could have been so easily made in Hong Kong with either Jackie Chan, Jet Li or Donnie Yen in the lead role. It is made with its very foreign Cinematic style and tone in mind. Its feel and production values are definitely akin to a '90s Hong Kong action movie & less so as an American movie, although it is also a B-movie all the way through.  

American audiences also turned their noses up on this mid-90s actioner, with arguably the biggest turnoff surprise of then- NBA Chicago Bulls basketball player, Dennis Rodman and all of his 6ft plus frame of him making his feature film debut as Jean-Claude Van Damme's partner-in-crime. Unlike John Woo's Hard Target, which went all out in the action ranks and with the story and plot not lagging in places, sadly with Double Team, I just never could resonate with it as much as I did towards the 1993 Woo epic. Plus, the action here is not as grand and entertaining. The fight scenes are the typical standard in every bargain bin Van Damme movie, but Sammo Hung just wasn't able to elevate it any further as he should have done. 

Double Team is also one of Jean-Claude Van Damme's last major cinematic offerings, right before his movies went down the straight- to- DVD route, and a film that whilst it is considered as the movie that derailed and signalled the end of Van Damme's movie career, I found this one a tad more enjoyable than Knock-Off, which also starred comedic actor, Rob Schiender. & that isn't really saying that much. 

There are some lull moments with Van Damme's onscreen wife and when the film forgets about her, whereas some viewers may be taken aback by this, I just found all of her scenes forgettable and she didn't have an effect on me. it is also silly in places, what with Van Damme kicking a tiger being one of them, so much so you have suspend your disbelief and take in everything that comes. Sort of. Dennis Rodman's flamboyant character is as colourful and wacky as I'd come to imagine him to be, ever since I saw him on the front cover with his green hair, massive tattoos & body piercings who also has a horde of firearms and weapons stored in his lair. Rodman's performance was so-so actually. His delivery of his lines was all right but it wasn't anywhere as great, & is a tad wooden like Van Damme's and his fighting abilities are rather decent. Fans and viewers of Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark will be bemused to see Paul Freeman here as the leader of the colony, though I guess he must have needed a paycheque. & Mickey Rourke didn't do anything here that wowed me. The characters as a whole are all stocky, one-dimensional with hardly any range, whatsoever & for some wham, bam, thank you Van Damme moments, the film is not appealing and nor that amazing. 

Double Team is an above mediocre, glorified action caper of a film and I can't help but think that Hark went down the gimmicky route and as much as Double Team comes across as a gimmicky action movie with Rodman in the supporting role, it does have a couple of watchable moments. It is a film that barely makes any sense and is illogical in many ways.  

As a buddy cop action movie, however, this one doesn't quite work well enough, Van Damme and Rodman just don't look convincing as a pairing and the ending isn't that great and yet I also expected Van Damme and Rodman to give Rourke a proper beat down and he dies, but alas, that doesn't happen. I was disappointed, although how underwhelming it was and with that being the icing on the cake, it all summed up how I felt let down by Double Team

And the added Coca-Cola product placements and basketball lingo are a bit too much to ask for & reeks of unnecessary. 

As I watched this, it wasn't all that of a surprise to see how and why Double Team didn't rake in millions at the box office; that and as a Jean-Claude action film, it underwhelms in the action stakes, both quality and quantity-wise. It clearly shows. Although there were plans for a sequel to Double Team, those hopes were put to rest and shelved, due to how poorly it did financially and how it wasn't so well received. 

Final Verdict:

Incomprehensively speaking, Double Team is all over the place and barely makes much sense. Action-wise, it disappointed me and it felt so meh, so throwaway and typical, it wasn't that big of a deal. 

Double Team? More like Double Down, just like the KFC food item. 


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