From the Archive – Double Team (1997)

team

“They don’t play by the rules.”

A BMM double team review by original site reviewer Mant and Luke ‘happyfett’ Slater

Directed by Tsui Hark
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman and Mickey Rourke

happy fett

Jack Quinn (Van Damme), a top anti-terrorism agent with the…well, maybe the CIA, but who knows, is brought out of early retirement – promising his pregnant wife, Catherine, he’ll be back in thirty-six hours – to take down his nemesis, Stavros (Rourke). He buys some guns from weird-looking fixer Yaz (Rodman) and hooks up with a Delta Force team to try and take Stavros at a funfair in Antwerp (and where else).

Mant: It all goes wrong when one of the animals, the tiger, gives Stavros the nod and points the delta force guys out with a head gesture. Yes folks, the giant cat is a plant. People die, including Stavros’ young son, and Quinn is injured protecting a baby.

He wakes up very confused, and so he should be as suddenly he is in the Prisoner. Actually its called the Colony, and ex-spys, agents, and bad guys, thought dead are instead forced to wear snazzy watches and drive around in golf carts. Oh yeah, and analyze terrorist activity one-handed (the other being on a hand scanner). The whole place is escape proofed with laser beams under water (although sadly not attached to shark’s heads).

happy fettHere he receives a coded ‘terrorist atrocitagram’ from Stavros, telling him he has Catherine.

Mant: Quinn does some exercises, and after some painful training (to watch if not to do) he does his daring escape, triggering Goldsymthe (Paul Freeman), his guardian at the Colony, who then has to leave and hunt him down and kill him. He sets of after Stavros, who has lured his pregnant wife to Rome with offers of an art exhibition. On the way he teams up with Yaz, the oddly dressed arms dealer.

happy fettAnd then they go chasing around Rome after Stavros, with Jack finally having to rescue his son by fighting the tiger mano-a-fango in the middle of a mine-strewn Coliseum. As you do.

Oh; and Goldsmythe is still after him, but that’s not really important.

What’s wrong with it?

Mant: Way too much Van Damme working out for a start. Can’t we just have a training montage and get it over with? We all know he can do the splits. The whole waiting for him to escape bit is dull, and when the film slows down you start thinking about how mind-numbingly stupid the whole thing is. Its very stupid. Plus most mooks can’t even do kung-fu, so Van Damme just knocks them around. Even in the final fight he is clearly just much better than Stavros, rather anti-climatically.

happy fettDouble Team plays like a Hong Kong action movie, right down to the dialogue sounding like a badly-translated dub-track. The film cuts violently from one set piece to the next, narrative flow clearly taking second place to getting to the next action scene as quickly as possible. The acting is crappy and the story inconsistent. Freeman disappears for half the movie, and a Colony agent whom Jack thought he had killed bizarrely shows up during his escape attempt to try and thwart him, all kitted out for scuba and everything, for no reason whatsoever.

Rodman’s hair keeps changing colour, which is distracting, as are the occasional height cracks and constant basketball jokes. He also can’t act, but is at least in company on that point. Van Damme is his usual wooden self, and Mickey Rourke looks pissed off just to be here.

What’s right with it?

happy fettThe film does rattle on at a cracking pace, I’ll give it that. Also, Rourke’s clear annoyance at the director gives him a suitable menacing sneer if nothing else.

Mant: Well the tiger is well trained.

How bad is it really?

happy fettBad. Watchable, but very definitely bad.

Mant: Some of the fights are OK, and a few times the action manages to be engaging enough to keep you entertained. When that stops though the realization of just how astonishingly stupid the movie is comes crashing back in.

Best bit?

Mant: On entering a monestry Quinn finds out Yaz’s brothers are just that, monks with some funky super computer.

happy fettYep. Nothin’ says quality like an order of net-savvy Franciscan archivists who talk like gangsta rappers; but in Italian.

What’s up with…?

  • Mant: The trained tiger? I don’t mean in making the film, I mean within the context of the film. Stavros snuck a trained trigger into the fairground before meeting up with son and her mother to look for delta force?
    happy fett
    Perhaps it went to the same school for lookout animals as the Minkey in that Clouseau film.
  • Mant: Yaz’s bondage club come arms depot (come snorkelling pool)?
  • The whole frickin’ Colony? In so many, many ways is this ill thought out, unexplained and plain stupid?
  • happy fettYeah; what’s up with the whole Colony thing? Why not just have him recover his health and go rogue to rescue his wife? There actually wasn’t any point to the Colony at all.
  • Goldsmythe coming after Jack? He never really catches him, so it’s not like the pursuit adds any tension to the film.
    Mant: Does Goldsmythe want to kill Quinn or not? One minute he is going to, the Quinn escapes and he has a laugh with Yaz then drives off?
    happy fett
    I think he didn’t want to, but he had to, or something. C.f. What’s up with the Colony?
  • Dennis Rodman? Just in general.
  • The dénouement? Whose idea was it to finish the film with Van Damme fighting a tiger in a minefield, and can I buy them a drink?
  • The Italian obstetrician packing heat?
  • Mant: The doctor, who seems to be in on it, then Stavros orders shot for no reason?
  • happy fettWell, as I saw it the doctor wasn’t really involved, she was just, I dunno, dumb. On the other hand, if she’s not an inevitably double-crossed terrorist, why did she have a gun? Maybe Stavros mistook her – with the white coat and all – for a scientist working on his superweapon.
  • The funky monks?
  • The CIA guy who comes to get Jack out of retirement, then just gets whacked by Stavros? Were CIA guy and Jack particularly close? ‘Cause no one said. If not, why did Stavros feel it necessary to kill the guy? Did he know about the op, and if he did then why show up at the fair to meet his family? Why not cancel?
  • Dennis Rodman? I mean, really?
  • The nasty guy in the Colony? I mean, he does nothing but knock Jack down once, then try to kill him during his escape attempt by attacking him in the water in full scuba gear! There’s no indication prior to this that he knew Jack was planning anything. Did he just make a habit of sneaking out of his hut during supply drops and hanging around on the beach in scuba gear?
  • Mant: The secret agents randomly shooting anyone in a square in Rome?
  • As part of the above, the horse riding, Uzi wielding Italian policeman?
  • happy fettYeah. You’d think the Italian cops would be the most careful about not mowing down pedestrians in their nation’s capital.
  • Mant: Going to buy guns from Yaz at the start? Doesn’t Delta Force have their own guns? And why employ a foreigner anyway?
    happy fett
    Well, the sniper chick sure as hell wasn’t American.
  • Yaz’s apparently superhuman strength? For a Tsui Hark film the laws of physics are surprisingly harsh, but Yaz just flings people through the air as though they were basketballs.
  • Mant: Stavros’ whole “most of the people I killed deserved it” speech? He toss grenades into crowds and around maternity wards! The babies have it coming to them?
    happy fett
    At that stage his kid’s dead and he’s all angry and stuff. Besides, Mickey Rourke probably insisted on the line, being a huge fan of the IRA as he is – or was at one stage anyway.
  • Mant: Quinn’s total lack of remorse. He hesitates when he sees the kid, but that hesitation is actually what gets the kid killed. Later, his plan of tipping off multiple agencies turns into a blood bath, and he never seems to care?
  • happy fettDennis Rodman? Seriously; I want to know.

Ratings (fractions rounded up):

Production values:
happy fettPretty good really. The exploding Coliseum is pretty slick, although points off for blowing up the Coliseum. 5
Mant: Pretty good. The stunts are good, the action sequences pretty good and the effects, such as they are, pretty good. A couple of effects shots show they are effects, but that happens in even the best movies. 2
Average – 4

Dialogue and performances:
happy fett
Phe-ew! What a stinker. As noted, the film sounds like a badly dubbed Hong Kong movie, yet the actors are speaking English. 19
Mant: Absolute 100% corn delivered with a totally straight face. In fact the faces are so straight they hardly ever move throughout the whole film. Van Damme is always wooden, Rourke turns in his standard bad guy routine, some villains snarl. 16
Average – 18

Plot and execution:
happy fett
Pacey, but very badly fragmented. 15
Mant: Stupid, stupid, stupid. In makes no sense, stuff is unexplained. Sometimes I like to joke about the quantity of mnokeys, typewriters and drugs required to come up with a bad movie’s plot. This one is so aggressively stupid that I can only ascribe it to a human being and possibly some kind of bet or challange. 17
Average – 16

Randomness:
happy fettWell, yes. Franciscans and tigers and basketball players; oh my. 17
Mant: Horse riding policemen mowing down people with automatic weapons for no reason, undercover big cats, the whole Colony. Oh yes, an abundance of randomness 18.
Average: 18

Waste of potential:
happy fett
Van Damme, Rodman; together at last! Okay; not expecting much. 4
Mant: Its been a long while since the last good Van Damme action flick. Still, clearly a fair budget went on this one, some expensive effects and stunts. At least it could have been not so crushingly stupid. 14
Average – 9

Overall Average 65%

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