Saturday, July 07, 2018

Double Team (1997)

After re-watching this film for the first time in over 20 years I have to conclude that what was an important gain for diplomacy was a tragic loss for the acting profession when Dennis Rodman didn't focus on acting to instead be a bridge between America and North Korea. He shows so much promise here in the manner in which he is able to act so tall and so artless. Sadly, it is in a film that has been mocked by nearly one and all in the West but is considered a classic in North Korea.

There are of course hundreds of ridiculously bad action films out there and Jean-Claude van Damme is in his share of them (though nowhere near those of Steven Seagal), but this one for many was a stake to the heart because the director was Tsui Hark. Tsui Hark is a legend in Hong Kong with a filmography as producer or director that is second to none with one classic after another in every genre. But in 1997 many Hong Kong people in the film industry were looking for an exit due to the Handover and if possible find work abroad. Not many were able to but for the few who did - Hark, Chow Yun-Fat, Ringo Lam - it was overall a letdown (though I do kind of like some of the Chow Yun Fat films). They all picked up a few paychecks and headed back to HK.

So Tsui Hark comes to America to take on an action project starring JCVD, Mickey Rourke and Dennis Rodman with a plot that makes your head spin. He is clearly overjoyed with a budget that is probably bigger than all of his previous films in HK put together. So he blows up a lot of stuff. I mean everything pretty much gets blown up. It has a pre-credit sequel which makes no sense and has nothing to do with the film but a lot of trucks get destroyed. Not much about the film makes any sense though as JCVD battles a buffed up Mickey Rourke in a coliseum that is mined and has a loose tiger chasing JCVD. Rodman is the sidekick. It is so ridiculous that at times you think what 15 year old came up with that idea and you wish that the four minute fight between JCVD and Chinese martial artist Xin Xin Xiong (check him out in The Blade) in the hotel room was much longer.

Tsui Hark was so dismayed by this experience that he went back to Hong Kong never to return (though he did direct JCVD in Knock Off that takes place in Hong Kong) but he will always have Zu Warriors, Shanghai Blues, Peking Opera Blues, The Swordsman and Once Upon a Time in China and so many others that people will remember him by.

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