Wednesday, April 8, 2020

"Double Team" - Stefon from "SNL" Wrote the Ending.


As usual, the first article of the month is a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. The reason I chose Double Team actually has a slight connection to the current stay-at-home orders most of us are under. My wife spotted this on a premium channel that we had as a free preview for a few days during all this, so she recorded it. I own Double Team already, but out of sheer laziness, I thought, “Well, I’ll just watch this on DVR and save myself the trouble of getting up and putting in a DVD.” So, yes I do own this, but I technically watched a recording of it. I just wanted to be honest about the way I ended up watching the Van Damme/Rodman collaboration that everyone in the ‘90s had demanded.

Stefon from SNL Wrote the Ending.

The ending saved this movie for me because it is crazy. It’s so nuts that when I started listing all the stuff that happens, it made me think of those insane lists that Bill Hader’s character, Stefon, would list on Weekend Update on SNL (which were written by John Mulaney). If Stefon were to describe the ending of Double Team, I think it would go like this:

“If you’re looking for some of the wackiest crap you’ve ever seen in an action movie, then look no further than the ending of Double Team. Set in an actual old Italian coliseum, this ending has everything: Jean-Claude Van Damme, a shirtless Mickey Rourke who only answers to ‘Stavros,’ land mines, Dennis Rodman on a dirt bike, a sniper, a minutes-old newborn baby in a basket, cybermonks, a tiger that gets kicked by Van Damme, a Coke machine being used as a shield, Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark holding a baby, an explosion with Coke machines, Mickey Rourke blowing himself up with the tiger, and an end credits song featuring Dennis Rodman.”

Release the No Rodman Cut!

Double Team, at best, is often confused with Double Impact. At worst, it’s known as “the one with Dennis Rodman.” Stunt casting is almost always terrible, but for this film it’s even more frustrating because there’s a good film within Double Team, but the inclusion of Rodman took all the focus away from the interesting elements. 

By far the most compelling segment of Double Team is Van Damme’s time at the Colony, a secret prison/resort/think tank populated by spies who have “died.” The film does a good job of establishing the Colony and its rules (and many security features), but the runtime spent there is woefully short. Pretty much as soon as Van Damme arrives, he develops an escape plan. A couple montages pass, and then he’s gone. 

I get that Van Damme’s desire to leave so quickly has more to do with his pregnant wife back in the real world than it does with getting him back to Rodman. But they still could have made his stay there last longer in the film. Perhaps have a few more scenes of Van Damme getting to know the lay of the land. Have a few more moments of him accepting his fate a bit, maybe some conversations with the other inmates about how they’re dealing with similar issues there. Or instead of having his pregnant wife out there in the world, have him think that she died in some Stavros attack or something. Sure, he’ll still want to get out to get revenge, but he’ll also be destroyed and much more likely to accept his fate. Then when he sees the message from Stavros (“I have you butterfly.”), it spurs him into action, and then he escapes. 

Double Team’s original script was titled The Colony, so I know there was much more material for that segment than ended up in the final film. But for whatever reason, the filmmakers felt that the Colony was only worthy of a side plot, and instead turned the majority of the film into a buddy cop type movie with Van Damme and Rodman. 

If Rodman or his character were compelling or entertaining in any way, this wouldn’t be a problem. But his casting is so clearly a cash in on his popularity of the time, and his acting ability is so poor that it nearly ruins the movie.

Rodman’s acting is actually the least of the problems with his appearance. His line delivery is lazy throughout, but he’s serviceable in a role that would have been fine if left as a glorified cameo. But the more he sticks around, the more clear it becomes that he should not be an actor. 

Rodman’s acting is one thing, the constant basketball puns and references is another. First off, he’s not (technically) playing himself, so any reference to basketball makes no sense. It breaks the fourth-wall because it’s the film acknowledging the fact that he is Dennis Rodman. It’s a needless, unfunny distraction. On top of that, many of the references are painfully bland puns, and the use of a basketball-instead-of-a-parachute gag is just fucking stupid.

If it wasn’t clear from Rodman’s increased presence in the latter half of the film that someone thought he should be more of a co-star than a cameo, then the end credits make it painfully obvious. As soon as the credits roll, a bland techno-type song starts, and it features Dennis Rodman. So they not only thought Rodman should be a co-star and the title of the film should reference his basketball career, but he also needed to be on the soundtrack?

None of it makes sense to me, even through the lens of the late ‘90s. Yes, Rodman was a pop culture figure at the time, but why did the studio think he was going to be a box office draw? Tabloid interest doesn’t equal a film career (at best, it makes for a reality show). It just sucks that the filmmakers couldn’t just let this be a Van Damme movie and instead turned it into a Dennis Rodman movie.

This wouldn’t be all that bad if the film had been conceived as a vehicle for Rodman and Van Damme from the get-go. But they took a script that focused on Van Damme at the Colony and shoe-horned Rodman into it. It’s a waste of a good Van Damme movie. Double Team could’ve been The Colony. And sure, I don’t know how good that original script was, but I know what Double Team is, and I don’t think it’s crazy to assume that The Colony is a better movie.

Why Do I Own This?

It’s a Van Damme movie, but thankfully this was part of one of those four-packs of Van Damme movies. 

Random Thoughts

I sketched Van Damme in his wig and sunglasses disguise in this film for my grid art project in high school, which is the picture above. I think I really captured his misshapen mouth and scribble-like hair, but the rest of it is pure trash. What can I say? I wasn’t much of an artist, but inspiration struck when I saw this film.

Stavros is such a perfect bland villain name.

So Van Damme was a spy, but Rodman has a machine that can scan JCVD’s hand, and it brings up a bio?

For whatever reason, the scene with Rodman firing a gun always bothered me. It shows a close up of a gun firing and moving around, but when it cuts to a close up of Rodman’s face (twice), it’s perfectly still. It just feels wrong, but then again, Rodman’s general presence in the film is wrong.

Ten minutes in, and I have no clue what the fuck is going on. Why are they even at a carnival, and why are there so many people with guns there? And why are so many people at an outdoor carnival in the pouring rain? And why is it pouring rain in some shots, but not raining at all in others?

Okay, Van Damme slipping on cans of soda and somehow turning that into a kick is pretty cool.

So how exactly did Stavros’s son die? He looked alive when he picked him up away from the dead nanny (or mother?). I know Stavros was being shot at after he picked up his son, but it seems like he was just suddenly dead. Like most of the gunplay in this movie, it was unclear who got shot when by whom? Maybe that’s a better title for these Hong Kong English-language films: Who Got Shot When by Whom?

The Van Damme stretching/workout/holding breath underwater montage is damn near softcore porn, even down to the score.

“My husband loved that swan. He thought it was a cow.” What the fuck are you babbling about?

Van Damme training in his cell using the bathtub and whatnot is very Rocky IV-esque.

“You going to send an e-mail message?” Ah, the mid-90s…

In the message, it states “Stavro’s” instead of “Stavros’” or “Stavros’s.” As a former English teacher whose last name ends in “s,” the inability to know how to show possession with a name ending in “s” is infuriating. It’s “Stavros’s.” Yes, it sounds a little silly, but I think it sounds better than saying Stavros as if there’s more than one Stavro or that there’s a person named Stavro who owns something. What I don’t get, is if you don’t know the rules dealing with a surname that ends in “s,” then why write a character with such a name?

What the fuck was going on in that town square segment exactly? What was the plan for anyone involved?

Totally forgot about the cybermonks.

I thought the point of land mines was that you don’t know where they are. Telling someone about land mines is pretty stupid, but to go so far as to mark them is even dumber. If you’re going to mark them, do it in such a way that only you notice the mark, like by making some kind of indication in the dirt. But to put up a fucking cross at each mine? Why? Not to mention, the cross plan is what leads to Stavros’s downfall because Rodman switched them around. Just all around fucking stupid. 

That end credits techno/whatever song with Dennis Rodman is the most ‘90s thing about this movie.


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