I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Double Team

I’ve talked to alot of people who are going back and rediscovering Mickey Rourke performances after seeing THE WRESTLER. They rent BARFLY, maybe 9 1/2 WEEKS, ANGEL HEART, JOHNNY HANDSOME, THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE. I was thinking about that and suddenly it occurred to me that I don’t hear anybody talking about a little picture I am very fond of but haven’t seen in many years, one with a cover that says VAN DAMME – RODMAN – ROURKE. So I rented it in preparation for a post-Oscars celebration.

Well, poor Mickey didn’t get the Oscar, but who needs an Oscar when you can say ‘I WAS IN DOUBLE TEAM, MOTHERFUCKER’? I mean, which would YOU rather have? Okay, I guess most of you probaly said the Oscar, but what would your second choice be?

Double TeamAnyway I love this movie. It joins STONE COLD in an elite category of highly enjoyable action movies that combine serious action chops, high energy, a way above average number-of-explosions-to-minutes-of-screen-time ratio, a stupid story, a great actor playing the villain and a goofy performance by a ridiculously dressed flash-in-the-pan professional athlete turned non-actor.

Jean-Claude Van Damme plays P. Jack Quinn, a secret agent involved in the attempted assassination of Stavros (Rourke), a former agency asset. It turns out Stavros has his little boy there, the kid gets shot, and Quinn must be avenged. (Come to think of it, this movie could be told from Rourke’s point of view and he would be the good guy.)

If you’re into this kind of movie, which you are, it won’t take long to realize that this is in the higher echelon. Within the first fifteen minutes or so you’ve already seen Quinn driving a futuristic truck full of plutonium off a mountain, Stavros walking slo-mo away from a cab he blew up, a bunch of people at a carnival still going on rides even though Stavros and Quinn are running around firing guns and blowing shit up, a hand grenade thrown into a baby’s bassinet (man, Stavros carries alot of grenades with him when he brings his kid to the carnival)… and then when Quinn gets knocked out and wakes up he kills a TV because it informs him that his wife thinks he’s dead and he’s now living on an island called The Colony where all the world’s most dangerous secret agents are spending their golden years hanging out at a pool and then wearing sci-fi goggles and poring over data about recent terrorist acts to offer their analysis. So Quinn trains himself up BLOODSPORT style, executes an impressive escape from the island, finds out his wife had a baby but Stavros kidnapped it, then goes to the Roman Collisseum with Dennis Rodman to fight Stavros and a tiger without setting off landmines. You know, one of those kind of movies.

Rodman is, let’s just say, a unique movie presence. In my experience most movies don’t have a 6′ 8″ foot tall dude with tiger striped hair wearing pink spandex pants and a silver bra selling weapons. Later when he wants to blend in he changes the hair to green and wears a nice suit and fedora but still has two nose rings and 3 hoop earrings and drives a tiny car with his head sticking out of the sun roof. He looks good in the fights too, he’s no Kareem in GAME OF DEATH but he does have a similar thing going on with the ridiculously long legs doing high kicks. Also he tends to toss people around like basketballs. Actually, he uses your arm sort of like a handle, just lifts you up and throws you against a wall or through a window. He’s a weapons dealer who invented a special basketball shaped parachute and a smoke bomb coin. He turns out to have a heart of gold, so when he finds out about the kidnapped baby he goes along in the mission free of charge. But then when he rescues the baby from the tiger/minefield he just hides him in a hole in the wall and abandons him.

Xin Xin Xiong, who was in some of the ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA movies, choreographed the fights, and I guess he figured if you want it done right do it yourself, so he has the best fight with Van Damme. He jumps up and kicks his shoes off in the air, then produces a switchblade from his foot and has a knife fight. The weird thing is I figure he doesn’t really do anything he couldn’t do better with his hands, but he just knows it’s gonna fuck with a guy’s mind if you come at him holding a switchblade in your toes. People tend to lose their shit when you pull freaky tricks like that.

As for Rourke – okay, this is not exactly the greatest showcase of his talents, but they don’t completely waste him. He treats it seriously and doesn’t play it as a maniac, he is obviously in the right from his point of view. He even gives Quinn a chance to win his son back, and if not he’s gonna raise it as his own, not kill it. So he’s a nice villain. Rourke also gets to take his shirt off and do a little boxing. Kind of cool to have the boxer vs. the kickboxer (although they have Mickey doing some kicks too). Anyway I thought this was being entirely forgotten in his filmography, but to my surprise they showed some clips of it before his interview on the Barbara Walters Oscar special. In the interview he talked about a low point in his life after his wife left him and he had taken a movie just for the money and felt like a whore. But don’t worry, I did the math, it can’t be this one! Maybe the Stallone remake of GET CARTER, but not this one, he was still with his wife during this one. Phew!

But obviously it’s more of a Van Damme movie and it’s easily one of my favorites because it’s so over-the-top and such a weird combination of elements: a cool ripoff of THE PRISONER crammed into the middle of this weird Dennis Rodman movie. I didn’t even mention the computer expert monks who return in Rodman’s SIMON SEZ, the out-of-place basketball references or Van Damme’s bohemian disguise. There’s really no other movie like this except Van Damme’s other movie with director Tsui Hark, KNOCK OFF (the two are often referred to as Van Damme’s surrealist period, although only by me.)

Whenever somebody wants a recommendation for a completely insane, hilariously stupid but also awesome action movie, this is one of the first titles that pops into my head. If I had an Oprah’s book club type deal I would have to assign this one. Go watch it and let me know what you think.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 12:26 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 Responses to “Double Team”

  1. I love this review and this film for being insane. I cant believe you didnt mention the hi-tec monks. They just come out nowhere and you are supposed to go ¨of course……hi-tec monks¨. And all those Coca Cola vending machines at the end?

    Love it.

  2. Sorry Vern, but I thought this was kinda dull. We go through the action motions, but I never felt connected or particularly compelled. It contains alot of the same crazy story touches we saw in KNOCK-OFF, but lacking in the filmatics.

    I think what Mr. Majestyk said in the KNOCK-OFF comments perfectly sums up what is wrong with DOUBLE TEAM.

    That said, DOUBLE TEAM finally gets interesting with that crazy-planned finale and of course the world’s toughest vending machine. But too late.

  3. I liked Knock Off better becaus it had that weird guy from all the Adam Sandler movies team up with Van Damme for a buddy action comedy movie. A lot of people dont belive that movie excists when i tell them about it. I just wish Adam Sandler had done a small cameo in it like he usaly does in Rob’s films. But i guess that would have been hard since it was filmed in Hong Kong.

  4. IMDB says the movie Mickey Rourke is ashamed of and felt like a whore for doing is HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN, which was in 1991… so six years earlier than this 1997 movie which you figure as too early. But he got divorced from his first wife in 1989, so maybe that’s who he was talking about? Anyway I just watched HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN and liked it so I don’t think Mickey should be ashamed of that one.

  5. I can’t believe I didn’t discuss the Coke machines in this review. That’s always been one of my top 50 favorite things about this movie. Until the Transformers movie it was the most prominent placement of a vending machine in a movie (there’s an explosion and the Coke machine protects them). I guess it tops Transformers’s villainous Mountain Dew machine since it’s a heroic Coke machine.

  6. The race in Knock Off, where Rob Schneider’s whipping a grinning-like-an-idiot Van Damme with an eel must be the single most crazy scene in any movie!

  7. And the slow dripping coke-can-fingerprint-pusher… Such a strange movie. Do you think companies pay more for having their products portrayed in a particularly heroic light?

  8. This movie does have some awesome product placement. In addition to the indestructible Coke vending machine that plays a key role in the climax of the film I also think Van Damme slips on a coke can during the shoot out at the carnival earlier in the movie.

  9. Saw this as a great DTV as a kid…awesome. How sad is it that I found an electronic copy of this at work and literally was so fucking excited!

  10. I can’t believe I haven’t seen this film 15 times!

  11. this is the latest Nostalgia Critic’s review http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thatguywiththeglasses/nostalgia-critic/30656-double-tea

    I was quite excited to see him review a movie Vern had already reviewed

  12. I go back and forth on The AV Club. There’s a lot of good writing on the site, but it tends to be a little too smug and misanthropic for me to fully embrace. But I guess I should mention they’ve just included DOUBLE TEAM in their “new cult cannon”:
    http://www.avclub.com/articles/double-team,55456/?utm_medium=promobar&utm_campaign=recirculation
    I think it’s a pretty good article, even though the writer just _has_ to show us he’s so above all this JCVD stuff

  13. A further example of outrageous product placement in this movie is the Omega watches on the colony that count down to when the agents will die if they don’t return to their cottage in time. You wonder why Omega would want to heavily endorse their watches as death countdowns. Coke is tough and useful in the movie. Omega brings death. I’m now fearful of what will happen when my watch hits 12.

  14. Fun movie though. And I loved Rodman’s out of place references to his basketball defense and rebounding skills. Combined with his outfits and attitude, all the talk of him liking “defense over offense” have a homoerotic edge. Thankfully Mickey Rourke doesn’t throw one of his many grenades up Rodman’s backside, which would have really rammed the point home.

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  16. I’m not sure why, but I never saw this movie til now. In 97 I liked Van Damme, had seen at least one Tsui Hark movie (GREEN SNAKE) and thought it was weird and cool. Maybe it was that Dennis Rodman was overexposed at the time, but might be more likely none of my friends wanted to see it.

    Anyway it was worth the wait. Truly a weird movie aimed only at the weirdest weirdos. Its like the movie wasn’t even made, but somehow vomited up.

    It aged to perfection I think. Everything about it screams 1997, from the color scheme to the canted angles to the everything but the kitchen sink genre blending. Loved the tiger and the coke machines!!!

    While not my favorite JCVD movie, its maybe the most fun mess. Gotta see KNOCK OFF soon, and maybe throw in SIMON SEZ for good measure.

    Oh, I saw HARLEY DAVISON AND THE MARLBURO MAN as well, and its not bad. Also saw it well after the fact (about a year ago) and it seemed to be a similarly f-ed up oddball movie. Like this one, its scewey take on the world might be better appreciated now than when it was new.

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