Tuesday, July 9, 2019

"Double Impact" - Double the Van Dammage

*As always, I write these articles under the assumption that you’ve seen the movie, so...SPOILERS.

I know I started this month with Tombstone, but that was just because I was late with that one and meant to get it done by June. So consider this the actual first article of July, which means it’s time for another Van Damme movie. I went with what I consider to be lesser Van Damme last month with Knock Off (although it is better than I remember), so this month I’m going with one of my favorites: Double Impact. I love this movie to the point that I had a poster of it made years ago when I couldn’t find an actual poster online (you’ll find this hard to believe, but I was single at the time). So any excuse to watch this again is welcome, but I knew I had to cover this one as soon as possible when I learned that a new special edition had been released. So once again, writing about movies in my own collection caused me to add another disc to it. In fact, deciding to do this one Van Damme movie every month thing is going to cause me to end up buying quite a few more before it’s all said and done. Perhaps that’s been my subconscious goal behind all of this; it’s all been a ruse to give me an excuse to buy every Van Damme movie ever made. Well, at least a lot of them are included in those “5 Movie Action Pack” DVD sets for less than $10.

Double the Van Dammage

Within the Van Damme filmography, the twin or duplicate Van Damme movies are usually made fun of a bit, mainly because he made four movies in which there is more than one of him: Double Impact, Timecop, Maximum Risk, and Replicant. When you think about it, that’s a crazy amount of times for that to happen in an acting career when you are not an actual twin. To be fair, he only played twins in this movie and Maximum Risk, and in Risk, he didn’t appear onscreen as both brothers at the same time (one died at the beginning). In Timecop, there were just different versions of Van Damme. And in Replicant he was cloned in an attempt to track down the serial killer version of Van Damme (Replicant is perhaps the most underrated Van Damme movie, and I cannot wait to revisit it). Regardless of the details, you can see why someone might poke fun at how often this happened in his movies. Despite the gimmicky nature of multiple Van Dammes, it can be used to make a very compelling Van Damme movie when used correctly. 

Obviously, Double Impact is an example of using the gimmick correctly. You see, it’s not enough to simply have two Van Dammes onscreen. It’s awesome, sure, but it only rises above gimmick when you make the two Van Dammes polar opposites. This allows Van Damme to showcase his range as an actor, and it’s so entertaining to watch him play a “bad” guy. Van Damme got his start playing bad guys, but he quickly became the fun, charming leading man in most of his films. Movies like Double Impact let audiences see another side of Van Damme. 

I know most of these articles I write about Van Damme seem a bit tongue in cheek, but I do sincerely like most of his filmography, and I do think he’s a good actor. His accent is usually a bit of a detriment to his performance (especially in the early days), but he ended up being a legitmate leading man. But for whatever reason I’ve always found him much more compelling as a bad guy. It seems like Van Damme is able to free himself a bit as an actor when he’s not worried about the audience liking his character.

In Double Impact, Van Damme plays Chad and Alex, twins separated at birth after the assassination of their parents in Hong Kong. Chad ended up in L.A. and became kind of a douche. Alex was raised in Hong Kong and became kind of a dick. Either character as the lead of the movie would be okay, but bringing them together made Double Impact special. There’s something great about seeing Van Damme talk shit to himself. 

The vengeance plot of Double Impact is serviceable and the action is decent, but it’s Van Damme’s performances that set it apart from the rest of his filmography. The Chad performance is close to what you would expect from a Van Damme leading character at this point in his career, but he does get to play him with a bit of irony, really selling the pampered aspect of the character. He’s very concerned with his clothing, and he’s constantly complaining about how shitty Alex’s Hong Kong is. If Chad was the only character, that stuff would have been excised to make him more likable. This is why it’s so great to have a version of Van Damme that is the heel; it allows both characters to become more interesting because making the audience like them is less of a goal. If there’s two Van Dammes, you’re bound to like one of them, so there’s no need to sell it more than usual. Chad’s whininess is actually pretty funny, and it allows him to grow as a character as he becomes less concerned with that stuff by the end of the film.

The Alex performance is even better because Van Damme is given the freedom to be an asshole. He’s constantly talking shit about his brother (he has a serious problem with Chad’s black silk underwear), which makes for something quite meta. Everytime Alex rips into Chad, it’s almost as if it’s Van Damme ripping into all the characters he’s had to play as the “likable” leading man. It’s like he’s sick of this goody-two-shoes shit, but he can only express this as Alex because he’s afraid to make waves with his career. 

Of course, I’m probably reading into it more than I should. The real motivation of this film was to show audiences how great it would be to see Van Damme kick Van Damme. And it is great. I just wish they would make the sequel Van Damme has mentioned before. And a sequel would allow for something new for Van Damme: they could introduce a long lost third brother. Van Damme could play triplets! And it solves the problem of the bland title of Double Impact 2. Instead, it would be Triple Impact. Triple the Van Dammage!  

How am I just learning about the MVD Rewind Collection?

A big reason for me writing about this movie is because I came across a special edition of this movie from the MVD Rewind Collection. Most Van Damme movies are light on the special features, but this release had a two-part, nearly two-hour documentary, an hour of deleted scenes, plus all the old promo material. The kind of attention usually reserved for prestige films was being applied to a Van Damme movie not called Kickboxer, Bloodsport, or Universal Soldier. It made me realize I was not alone in loving this movie. It also revealed a lot of stuff I had no idea about. 

For instance, the whole movie is slightly based on an Alexandre Dumas story called The Corsican Brothers. Who knew a Van Damme movie was based on literature? And Tia Carrere was considered for the love interest (which would have made so much more sense, by the way), but Van Damme wanted a “blonde.” (That segment is a bit cringe-worthy, with Van Damme claiming it wasa decision made to help the box office draw of the movie. I think Van Damme just wanted to film sex scenes with a blonde.) And there’s a lot of info about filming in Hong Kong and some behind the scenes business stuff I would have never known if not for this new release. I just can’t believe I only know about it because I came across it during an Amazon search. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that this is not the first Van Damme movie to receive this treatment. They’ve also released special editions of Black Eagle and Lionheart, so of course I have to buy those now. Hopefully these movies are selling decently enough to keep this series going. I would love to see a special edition of The Quest or Legionnaire. (I’m joking about Legionnaire...kind of.)

Me, while watching this movie.

Why do I own this?

It’s a special edition of Double Impact. As a serious fan of all things Van Damme, I have to own this.

Random thoughts 

As a father, I know that babies look a bit different than what they end up looking as they get older, but there's no fucking way those pale British babies end up being two Van Dammes!

That opening parent murder scene makes Batman's parent murder look like a Disney scene. "What will happen to my babies?" - Double Van Damme mom, already shot once.
"You'll never know." - An especially evil Chong Li right before he shoots her in the face with a shotgun. Damn!

In less than a minute of Van Damme's introduction, he's doing the splits. In less than two minutes, he's kicked someone in the face. Now that's how you use Van Damme in a movie.

"And you weren't born in France. I just raised you there." Thank you! One throwaway line explains the accent. Is that so hard?

My God, American Van Damme is wearing the most "dad" outfit I've ever seen.

Man, Chong Li aged great. Twenty-five years later and looks no different. 

So a goon takes one kick from Van Damme, and Chong Li breaks his neck as punishment? Come on, Chong Li, you'll run out of goons in no time with that business model.

Also, nice to see Chong Li get some Bloodsport payback with that shot to Van Damme's nuts.

By the way, I know his name isn’t Chong Li, but you know exactly who I’m talking about when I refer to him by that name, don’t you?

So Chad's idea of stealth is to sneak up on a guy, say "psst!", and then kick him in the face, sending him crashing into some barrels? I like it.

There's nothing special about the shootouts in this movie, but I did like seeing things done the old-fashioned way with squibs and stuff getting shot up practically. 

Oh, and this movie features some all time classic ridiculous shootout moments, like shooting while jumping, shooting upside down unnecessarily, and, my favorite, rolling across the floor while shooting the entire time.

I've always liked the ridiculousness of bad guy meetings, but this one is especially great since it features a cake in the shape of a frigate, and someone actually starts to serve the cake. Something just makes me laugh at the idea of a bad guy meeting having to pause while everyone enjoys a slice of boat cake.

By making the sex scene Alex's paranoid fear, the filmmakers found a way to still have the required nudity of a '90s action movie without it being completely gratuitous. 

Damn, Alex hitting a woman and dropping the (homophobic slur) f-bomb twice. That shit would not have made it if this was made today.

"Brother? Why? Because he looks like me? I'm gonna change that. Because I'm gonna fuck up his face." I’ve said this about one of my brothers at least seven times throughout my life.

As a kid, I thought the dude with the spurs was bad ass. He just seems silly now. 

Beware Chong Li's special ability: lifting barrels above his head.

Chong Li's death is so fucking good. It begins with an out of nowhere electrocution and is immediately followed by a massive explosion. Fuck. Yes.

I think that ship is only hauling explosive barrels. 

No fucking way that a British businessman knows how to operate heavy machinery. 

Griffith's death is a bit too similar to the end of Lethal Weapon 2.

I love the abrupt ending. We know everything will be fine because they freeze frame on Van Damme giving the "okay" gesture.

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