Double Impact (1991)
Double Impact is quite probably the most Jean Claude Van Damme film ever made. First off he co-produced the movie, co-wrote the screenplay (such as it is) and starred in the two leading roles. On top of this however, the whole film is essentially one big vehicle for the muscles from Brussels to flex, kick and pirouette his way past an army of bad guys. In case you’re a little fuzzy on your JCVD back catalogue, this is the one where our hero plays two identical twin brothers brought back together to avenge the death of their parents and take down an evil crime lord in Hong Kong.
The two brothers were separated during the attack that killed their parents and while their dad’s trusty right hand man Frank brought Chad up in the bright lights of LA, Alex was left at an orphanage in Hong Kong and grew up immersed in the city’s seedy underworld. Naturally, they have grown up to be very different men with Chad the pampered city boy and Alex the streetwise badass. Although, that being said, they have both become experts in martial arts and maintained a remarkably similar physique, which is a stroke of luck. Frank reunites the pair and helps them to seek out and destroy the crooked business partner who sold their father out and the powerful crime lord he is in cahoots with.
Now I’m no movie snob. I love my fair share of brainless action movies from the 80’s and 90’s and can enjoy a run of the mill guns and guts type movie like anyone else, but amongst the pantheon of action movies this is definitively rooted towards the bottom. In fairness to JCVD, his acting isn’t actually that terrible here by his standards, but then given his standards that’s not really saying much. The plot is dangerously thin however and every new scene is literally just a method to get Van Damme into more scenarios where he can kick bad guys. “But movies like this aren’t meant to be about intricate plots!” I hear you cry. “They are about the high-octane action sequences and the bone-crunching fight scenes.’ I may also hear you suggest. This is of course a valid argument. The problem is however, the action sequences in Double Impact are incredibly dull and the fight scenes likewise.
The root cause of this unfortunate dullness reminds me of a scene from UK comedy series Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. The show revolves around a forgotten ‘classic’ low-budget TV show and has its stars and creators providing commentary as we watch. At one point, hopeless director Dean Lerner explains that due to the show often running several minutes under, any scenes without dialogue were considered for slow-motion. This would appear to be a rule vigorously adhered to by Double Impact’s director Sheldon Lettich.
The fight scenes in the film aren’t particularly exciting or intense and are essentially just one of the two JCVD’s kicking someone in the head really hard. Unfortunately that doesn’t really take that long and in fact barely constitutes a fight. So how do they get round it? Easy, shoot it all in slow-mo. As a result we get long boring shots of Van Damme’s chiseled body posing like a statue, whilst an unlucky gangster underling flips up in the air and crashes through the nearest wall/barrier/railing (delete as appropriate). Used once or twice and this device is fine but used to the level that this movie opts for and it just gets tedious.
The film is cheesy even by Van Damme movie standards, with a completely needless gratuitous sex scene thrown in to boot (hey look! Does Jean Claude look good naked….who’d of thought it?) My advice for what it’s worth is this: If you’re after a bit of mindless JCVD-related action fun, watch Sudden Impact, Universal Soldier or even Hard Target at a push. Whatever you do though, steer well clear of Double Impact. It’s a lifeless vanity project and is every bit as bad as you remember.
Director: Sheldon Lettich
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Geoffrey Lewis, Alonna Shaw
Runtime: 110 min