Upon completion of Godzilla month last week I got a few friends over to watch a number of “cinematic classics”. By which I mean we had a Best of the Worst themed night. After getting through such “greats” as Story of Ricky, Miami Connection and Godzilla Final Wars one of my “friends” who we’ll pretend is called “Luke” decided we should watch Double Dragon. This is my review of Double Dragon.
In Double Dragon a pair of racially diverse brothers named Jimmy and Billy Lee (Mark Dacascos and Scott Wolf respectively) are in possession of one half of some medallion thing that has super powers. Some white, middle aged, Vanilla Ice looking business dude called Koga Shuka (Robert Patrick) is in possession of the other half. He wants both halves because of mystical power and stuff. Because the film is set in the 90s this all involves the two brothers conflicting other their personalities, one stoic the other radical, whilst contending with TV grade special effects and an ill advised make-up effect. Also this is set in the future dystopia of 2007 and LA is Blade Runner land now.
Back in the early to mid 90s video games were becoming a big deal. Because of this Hollywood studios realized there was a new market desperate to be taken with any level of legitimacy and so the big studio bosses threw paltry sums of money at the game publishers for the rights to their games. The studios had little to no concern with what the games actually were and often barely tried to make them resemble the games at all. Super Mario Bros being a prime example. Mortal Kombat sorta worked though, Street Fighter didn’t but Mortal Kombat just about did. Both films made a decent amount of money though. Double Dragon was also a fighting game at this time and so a film was put into production for a minuscule budget and a story involving a load of stuff that wasn’t in the games. It was bound to be a success!
To be fair, I’d imagine the film actually was a financial success. On a budget of just under $8 million and with a name that was actually pretty recognisable, to gamers at least, this must have made its money back. It certainly wouldn’t be because of the plot, story or characters though. Set design and sheer silliness, maybe. For the film’s budget the director James Yukich didn’t manage to get a decent amount of mileage. There’s some nice matte paintings. Some complex and nicely details, if frigging ludicrous, sets that have genuinely had some care gone into them. You’ll see as the fights progress that each set was designed with the flow of the action entirely in mind. Kudos to them.
Naturally Mark Dacascos is the main reason to watch this film. He acts like he always does, which is mostly adequate, but as a physical force, as a martial arts performer, he’s really quite special. Always held his skills in high regard. If you doubt my opinion of him go watch Brotherhood of the Wolf or Drive… not the Ryan Gosling film. The original Asian punch kicking guy plus black cop buddy movie that appeared a full year before Rush Hour and is insanely more watchable. If there’s another reason to watch the film it’s early 90s Alyssa Milano as Marian. Marian, if you’re a close follower of the game series plot is the central core thematic element, wherein she gets punched in the stomach and carried away to be a prize for the player in what is in no way a troubling plot device at all. Oddly, they didn’t go with this in the film. Instead Marian leads a rebel team that set out to police the streets after curfew when the punk, clown and postman themed criminals all come out to play and the police go home to nap. I suppose they wanted to make her less damsel in distress and more generic cliché.
At the time it would be easy to just watch this film and see it as pure nonsense. Now, it has the added benefit of nostalgia. The entire film has reached that point where every inch of it’s celluloid is so 90s that anyone, of the correct age, can’t help but instantly identify with this period. Cool dudes who buck authority, mystical tales, mutants and evil businesses. This film is literally a Saturday morning cartoon in film form. Which is strange because there was a Saturday morning cartoon of Double Dragon at the time and it was nothing like this. Guess they managed to get two concepts realised at once.
Now, the film may be utter bollocks on almost every level but, at the risk of destroying any credibility I may have accidentally accrued, I don’t think the film is entirely awful. As mentioned it has a decent level of production, but it also is a fairly fun experience in that care-free stupid kind of way. Robert Patrick is giving zero shits about credibility in his performance and spends every scene he’s chewing so much of the scenery that he probably ended up all malnourished because of wood ingestion by the end of production. The make-up effect on the Bo Abobo (Nils Allen Stewart and Henri Kingi) character, in the games a giant super roided freak, in the film a giant super roided freak, comes dangerously close to becoming the end of Akira. He also looks a lot like he’s made of balloons. It’s so silly looking that it almost becomes adorable. Like, a child trying to put a square peg in a round hole adorable.
Double Dragon isn’t terrible enough to be a Best of the Worst movie to be honest. It’s just not good enough to be, well, good. When people cite this as being an absolutely terrible film, and likely bring up its 0% on Rotten Tomatoes as proof, I point them to such travesties as Death Bed, Titanic 2 and anything else where the film’s director has barely managed to put together an actual film. Unlike Death Bed, Double Dragon tells a story with a beginning middle and and end. It’s a stupid story, but it is there. Unlike Titanic 2 the director has managed to make the majority of the scenes not be filled with errors and logic defying idiocy. I mean, for God’s sake, they strap a credit card to a girl’s wound whilst in the fucking medical supply closet for fucks sake. Ugh! Fuck that film.
Taking a deep breath…
What I am saying is, Double Dragon doesn’t make me angry. Relative to the sort of junk that was farted out onto video in the 80s and 90s, compared to the dreck pumped out by studios such as The Asylum today, Double Dragon is some sort of masterpiece. It is a film that could easily be enjoyed when in the right mind set. When you want to relive that weird time in the 90s where everyone was a ninja regardless of how unlikely their background. That time where people came dressed in colour coded wardrobes. Where a running gag would just be two guys looking at a girls butt because they like girls and then raising an eyebrow. A simpler time, sure, but there was a hell of a lot worse than this nonsense and hell, I like how goofy Robert Patrick looks so I’m giving Double Dragon a thumbs up. Well, maybe a wobbly thumb to the side indicate indifference. This is all Luke’s fault. Sorry, “Luke’s” fault.