Review: Double Team (1997)
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, Mickey Rourke, Xin Xin Xiong
Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung
Directed by Tsui Hark
Jackie Chan. That’s kinda what happened to JCVD and Steven Seagal. JC came along with Rumble in the Bronx, Jet Li followed and a new renaissance of kung-fu films hit US screens, and suddenly JCVD and Seagal found their careers on life support when Americans saw what they’ve been missing for the last decade and a half. To JCVD’s credit, he’s always wanted to make films like they do in Hong Kong, and here teams up with Sammo Hung and Tsui Hark for this film. Mickey Rourke was still on the “outs” with Hollywood at the time, so he was available. And then we have Dennis Rodman.
To wit I say: “Sweet Mary Mother n’ Joseph what were they thinking?!”
JCVD stars as French super secret agent Jack Quinn, a man who has disappeared to lead a boring life with his beautiful wife who is now pregnant with his first child, but as all secret agents find out, you can never escape the life, and is thrown right back in when he finds that terrorist Stavros (Rourke) has been found, and he’s been tasked with bringing him down. Quinn first goes to visit arms dealer Yaz (Rodman) for weapons. Kinda like a weird version of Q. Quinn and his agents ambush Stavos at a circus where Stavros is visiting his woman and son. Both are killed in the ensuing gunfire between the agents, Stavros and his goons (Don’t understand why he would bring his girlfriend and son to a public place where he’s just got to know an ambush is waiting for him) Things go really wrong, Quinn’s whole team is killed, and Stavros gets away, but not before injuring Quinn in an explosion.
Soon Quinn wakes up on an island–you know, the one where all secret agents go to when they screw up or retire and can never leave–and finds himself recovering, and plans his own escape off of the island when he discovers that Stavros has his wife captive. Quinn is able to escape and enlist the help of Yaz and some high tech monks, and attempts to save his wife and child from Stavros, who is looking for one last confrontation…
This is an incredibly silly film. This film tries to be part James Bond and part Lethal Weapon and fails at both. The story takes bits and pieces from those films, but isn’t able to form a coherent story. Tsui Hark has always been at his best when he has a good/strong script, and his camera angles and shots are vintage Hark, but the script here is not strong, and thus the direction isn’t, either. JCVD is not bad, pretty much playing the same kind of character he’s always played in his films. Mickey Rourke might’ve been good, but we don’t see enough of his character to know, except toward the end when he is reduced to nothing but a cackling villain. What we do get is lots of Dennis Rodman and bad winking at the camera jokes in reference to his basketball career. Ugh. First off, his acting is terrible. Really, really bad. Like bludgeon yourself with a mallet bad. Yes, he has a distinctive look, but he has the onscreen charisma of a gopher. In fact, the gopher from Caddyshack has more. Also, as someone who is not a basketball fan, the references got old really fast. This was obviously a ploy to garner a bigger audience for JCVD by teaming him up, but jeez, there was no rapper available? At least Seagal had that F***tard DMX. And don’t even ask me about the scene where Quinn karate kicks a tiger.
Sammo Hung tried to get the most out of JCVD, but his skills are just not up to par. I paused the film during several fight scenes that looked pretty good when I noticed that some of JCVD’s movements, well, didn’t look like anything I thought he was capable of. Turns out I was right. I was dismayed to see that a stuntman did many of the more complex movements and kicks, and not Van Damme. The best fight in the film is the hotel fight between JCVD versus Xin Xin Xiong, whom you may recognize as Clubfoot from Once Upon a Time in China 3, 4 and 5. The fight is chopped to hell to mask JCVD’s deficiencies, but still looks decent, but not as good as it would if JCVD had the speed to keep up with Xiong. The rest of the fights are forgettable. It looked like Sammo just gave up. The less said about Rodman the better. He’s no Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
It has been said that Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark, and John Woo made a gentleman’s bet that they could make a hit film with JCVD. We can safely assume that Hark did not win.
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)
CHOREOGRAPHY: (4) Bless Sammo for trying, but he just couldn’t make the fights look more than just mediocre. I could tell the ideas for some good fights were there, but the skills of the stars prevented it from being fully realized.
STUNTWORK: (5) The work was decent, but nothing of note except that JCVD’s stunt man did a good job in some of the fights and acrobatics.
STAR POWER: (5) JCVD’s star was starting to fade here, and Rourke was nowheresville at the time, and the less said about Rodman the better.
FINAL GRADE: (4) Double Team is a film where the talent behind the camera couldn’t be realized in from of it, and Rodman ruins any goodwill the film might’ve had. One of the worst of Van Damme’s films.