More noise than signal

Double Impact

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

This 1991 joint reunites John-Claude van Damme, noted kickpunchman and Sheldon Lettich, writer and director of previous JCVD joints like Bloodsport and Lionheart, and a perhaps surprising number of subsequent ones in the wilderness era of JCVDs career. Let’s see if diminishing returns set in early.

After the opening of the Victoria Harbour tunnel in Hong Kong, the part-owner of the construction firm is followed home and killed by a Triad ambush, alongside his wife. However their maid is able to escape with one of the tiny twins, Alex, leaving him to be raised in a HK orphanage run by French nuns. The other, Chad, is whisked to America by bodyguard Frank Avery (Geoffrey Lewis), who raises him to be, ironically enough, something not too dissimilar to the Chads the modern day incells are all angsty about. Both twins are, of course, played by JCVD. As adults. Not babies. Naturally.

Things come to a head twenty-odd years later when Frank has finally tracked down Alex, who appears to be running a mahjong parlour and small time smuggling outfit in Hong Kong, and comes clean to Chad about their tragic family history and their now shared need for vengeance. Off they pop to HK, where the two brothers don’t initially take to each other, and some understandable confusion with Alex’s girlfriend, Alonna Shaw’s Danielle Wilde doesn’t help. This tension will simmer throughout as the B-plot to the affair. Well, I say B-plot. I’ll get to that.

The main order of business is, of course, revenge against the powerful, Triad backed businessman slash drug baron, Alan Scarfe’s Nigel Griffith (screen-writing side note, never name your villain Nigel), his pervy bodyguard, Corinna Everson’s Kara, and them there Triad goons, main threat of course being the imposing Bolo Yeung’s Moon. And I don’t think I’m being too unfair to say there’s not a great deal more to the plot than that, basically alternating action sequences and some scenes of fratricidal bickering before settling their differences for the final assault on, of all things, a cargo ship,

So, there’s not really an A-plot and and B-plot here, it’s all C-plot, perfunctory at best, to the point that even if you were the type to excuse this on genre grounds, this still isn’t going to be a classic. But, those action sequences, I have to say, I’m quite fond of. It’s not genre defining or anything, but they’re solidly handled. JCVD knows how to kick people, and there’s a few quite stylish captures of said kicking.

There’s a touch more gunplay in here than in the previously mentioned JCVD / Lettich team ups, and fittingly enough given the location it seems he’s borrowed heavily from the John Woo / Heroic Bloodshed style of pistols akimbo diving and rolling. Not a patch on the master, of course, but it’s all perfectly serviceable.

The technology of the time didn’t allow for an awful lot of technical trickery, and the composite shots of the two JCVDs used here I think have suffered somewhat in the transition to HD, as they don’t look great. On the positive side, said lack of technical trickery has made for much more convincing action scenes, so that’s nice. More on that in our next film.

As for the whole “portraying two different characters thing”, while no-one’s putting him forward for an Oscar, JCVD is doing what he needs to do here. Alex lets him explore a somewhat more villainous, or at least morally flexible character than we’d seen from him previously, and his initially somewhat goofy Chad persona is also rather more animated than we’d seen from him. Not that he’s a revelation – Alex’s drunken throes of angst borders on laughable – but he does enough to show here a bit more flexible as an actor, albeit still not as flexible as his body.

Double Impact is very dated, of course, and while they just don’t make action movies like this these days, they did, however, make a metric tonne of them like this back in the late eighties to early nineties, and while I enjoyed this quite a lot, it’s still right in the middle of a crowded pack. That makes it a little difficult to recommend pulling this film, in particular, out of the vault as opposed to, say the John Woo or Bruce Lee joints that this liberally steals from, but if you do happen across it I’d certainly not advise against watching it.