Double Team (1997) — Brought to you by Coca-Cola

“You look like a carrot with earrings.”

Justin’s rating: It’s grrrrrrrating!

Justin’s review: While it’s easy — but not recommended, for one’s personal safety — to use Jean-Claude Van Damme as a target for derision these days, we cannot forget that he was a really popular box office draw for almost a decade. From Bloodsport (1988), to Cyborg and Kickboxer (1989), to Universal Soldier (1992), to Timecop (1994), to the criminally underrated Street Fighter (1994), to Sudden Death (1995), he pumped out a lot of fun action flicks that were carried on the shoulders of his martial arts and ability to do very wide splits.

So when did it all go wrong? When did Hollywood denounce him dead and used up? A lot of fingers point at 1997’s Double Team as the culprit. Career-killing movies always warrant a close look, especially if the critical and industry experts called it wrong to begin with.

Van Damme stars as Quinn, a counter-terrorist who’s called out of retirement to take down his arch-nemesis Stavros (Mickey Rourke). But he’s going to need help, for some reason, and that help comes in the form of weapons dealer Yaz. Now, while Van Damme plays Quinn pretty much as he plays most all of his characters — serious, competent, stumbling over multi-syllabic words — nobody had the guts to tell Dennis Rodman that he should tone it down for this role.

Rodman, like many egotistical athletes who try their hand in acting, swaggers into this role with all of the ’90s attitude he could muster. He’s cocky and smarmy and showboating, and that’s even before I start describing his ensemble.

How can I do this guy’s style justice? If you wanted an exaggerated glimpse of the style that some people thought was totally cool back then, you could pull out this guy’s picture. He’s got neon yellow hair, truly weird sunglasses, a nose stud AND a nose ring, a ribbed metal tank top, shiny purple pants, and an adorable belly button ring that he likes to rub. And that’s just in ONE SCENE. You just… you just can’t take him seriously. I don’t think they could back in ’97 either.

Disguises!

So what we end up with are two guys who are both convinced that they are this movie’s star, and they don’t care what attention spans they’re going to ruin as long as they can clamber up to the top and declare their magnificence. Almost every single interchange between Yaz and Quinn are quippy one-liners that sound laughable when piled up together. It’s like that episode of Community where Troy and Abed are pretending to be detectives and keep trying to one-up each other’s clever wordplay while eventually realizing that they can’t both have the final say.

Double Team is a movie that is, in the end, about posturing. It’s so concerned about how it looks and sounds that it fails to properly set up action sequences and character moments, preferring instead to only include what it thinks are the high points. As such, it’s a gloriously odd mess of over-edited storytelling. More than once I thought that I had missed an important part or scene when the movie kept lurching forward to the next action sequence, but, no, that’s how Double Team rolls. It’s also got the largest collection of villains who love to fire machine guns indiscriminately into crowds and buildings.

What may be the best part, however, is that all of this rapid editing takes us on a whirlwind tour of flat-out ridiculous scenes. There’s a part in a bar-slash-weapons depot that includes underwater dancers in SCUBA gear and casual tosses of live grenades into corners. There’s a shootout at a carnival where everyone is wearing goofy masks and bizarre slow-motion bit abound. There’s a kickboxing exhibition in a hospital nursery with babies sliding about. There’s a whole stretch where Quinn is sentenced to a spy colony that’s right out of The Prisoner. There’s every single basketball pun that they could stuff into Rodman’s mouth. There are cyber monks. There’s constant, nonstop, relentless Coca-Cola product placement. And there’s a tiger who blows up a dude at the end.

Oh, and let’s not forget the part where they jump out of a plane, and instead of using parachutes, they activate — and I am not joking here — a giant basketball to surround them while Rodman says, “Now THAT’S hang time!”

If you surrender yourself to the lunacy of it all, this so-bad-it’s-amazing flick is almost on the level of a brilliant action movie parody. Rumor was that the next big picture of JCVD was going to be about him fighting the Abominable Snowman, but because Double Team tanked so hard, that got canceled. I guess this is the consolation prize for that great loss of cinema.

Didja notice?

  • Immediately, this movie thinks it’s Mission: Impossible
  • A good spy will take a truck on a demolition derby, especially if it’s full of plutonium
  • Bonus points if you create giant fireballs and set motorcyclists on fire
  • Massive transport trucks can kinda, sorta jump over moving trains
  • Cool villains walk away from the cars they’re exploding
  • Spinny camera scene introduction!
  • Dennis Rodman really likes his belly button ring
  • What’s with the underwater gymnasts?
  • “I may not have reindeer, but I have the best elves in the business”
  • “Offense gets the glory…” “…but defense wins the game!” HUH?
  • Yeah sure, just randomly fire at a manniquin in your weapons showroom. That’s safe.
  • And then throw a grenade past the secretary.
  • “Gentlemen, this is Delta One. Forget you’ve ever seen him.”
  • I love that they made a cute little model of an amusement park.
  • A silencer for tranquilizer darts?
  • Tigers LOVE carnivals with all of their noise!
  • Stavros had a gun AND a grenade ready to go while talking to his kid?
  • All of the ridiculous masks people are wearing during this firefight
  • Fancy flips are the best way to avoid bullets
  • Stavros demolishing a glass partition with high kicks and coffee mugs
  • And now we’re in a hospital nursery? How’d we get here?
  • Oh, now we’re in The Prisoner
  • Boy does this movie like its 3D computer graphics
  • Underwater lasers!
  • It’s Beloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark!
  • TRAINING SEQUENCE
  • Oh good, I was wondering when this movie would start peeling off fingerprints
  • JCVD’s face when he’s being towed by the plane makes me laugh
  • If you’re going to throw good guys off of planes, make sure they have parachutes
  • All of Dennis Rodman’s outfits and hair. Like, all of them.
  • Don’t trust anyone saying “It’s better than a parachute!”
  • Should’ve seen the exploding baby doll coming
  • JCVD’s street disguise. Does he have an ewok on his head?
  • The guy on horseback going absolutely nuts with his machine gun — and JCVD riding the wedding horses to freedom
  • SUITCASE MACHINE GUN
  • Bare foot knife!
  • Fist bumping monks
  • Tigers, mines, motorcycles, babies, Coke — all the ingredients for an amazing showdown
  • “I’ll be back!”
  • So many Coke machines — and one saves the day
  • And they just blew up the Colosseum

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