Thursday, November 22, 2007


From the Vault: Double Impact

Never will I forget the story of Alex and Chad.

Told in the new Jean-Claude Van Damme film Double Impact, their tale is a simple story of stolen destinies and exacted revenge. Van Damme plays both Alex and Chad, twins separated at birth by the murder of their parents, who are raised in two completely different environments.

Alex, left at a Hong Kong orphanage, becomes a small-time hoodlum smuggling contraband. Chad, raised by his parents' bodyguard (Geoffrey Lewis), turns out to be a successful martial arts instructor in Los Angeles who lacks street smarts but dresses appropriately preppy. When Lewis discovers Alex's whereabouts, he takes Chad to Hong Kong so the three can avenge the parents' deaths and restore their claim to the investment over which they were killed.

Dual roles are a challenge to actors and Van Damme comes at the parts kicking. Most actors would go the conventional route of creating two distinct flesh-and-blood characters who happen to look alike, such as Jeremy Irons did in Dead Ringers. Van Damme takes a more deceptively simple route by dressing Alex and Chad differently and giving them their own props.

Chad seems perpetually trendy and has a neatly groomed haircut while Alex dresses in black with slicked-back hair which makes him resemble Steven Seagal, which I'm certain must be a clever satirical point about the other action star who seems positively shallow when compared to Jean-Claude.

Furthermore, Alex seldom lacks a cigar in his mouth and his manipulation of that prop borders on the magnificent. Van Damme plays both characters perfectly without any typical thespian tricks getting in the way.

The script does explain that Chad grew up in Paris to account for his accent, but it doesn't feel the need to account for Alex's. Why should it? Van Damme takes his cue from Kevin Costner and just reads the lines without allowing a "performance" to distract from the film itself.

The story and screenplay credits four individuals, including Van Damme, and it shows. It would have been difficult for one person to come up with such a perfect spoof of traditional action archetypes and sustain that level for nearly two full hours.

Every nuance appears from the poorly filmed and fake-looking fight scenes to the crusty mentor Geoffrey Lewis plays, who seems to resemble G. Gordon Liddy.

The fights are choreographed hysterically so that Alex finds it necessary to roll prior to each time he fires a shot and where Lewis magically knows where to be in every shoot-out.

Even the climax proves a perfect action film parody with plenty of steam and pipes and the requisite "pits of hell" lighting that illustrates well the size of this film's budget.

Double Impact hits its target as a brilliant dissection of the martial arts/action cheapie genre. The film lacks a single serious moment and the people behind it couldn't have meant for it be taken at face value — could they?

Surely not.

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