MVD’s Rewind Collection series, which is dedicated to releasing special editions of some of the best in cult action, science fiction, and horror films for fans, has brought 1991’s Double Impact to Blu-Ray, absolutely stacked with bonus features. There’s more Van Damme than anyone could handle on one little disc.
While much of this movie plays out like rather typical late 80s/early 90s action fare, there are a few fun twists to the formula that keep things a little more interesting. In a story inspired by Alexander Dumas’ novel The Corsican Brothers, — no, really — Jean Claude Van Damme plays twin brothers, separated at birth and raised on opposite sides of the world. Luckily, they both grew up to be heavily accented badasses and they are reunited to take down the criminal organization that killed their parents and stole their inheritance. Lots of slow motion kicks ensue.
And it’s a lot of fun! Listen, Double Impact never acts like it’s going to change the world. It’s just a wacky good time, with plenty of guns, babes, one-liners, and unnecessary back-flips. It’s the kind of movie where characters will go on a stealth mission but start screaming and unloading a machine gun the second they’re in range of the enemy. And I’ll be damned (or Van Damme’d, if you will) if these kind of silly action flicks don’t strike a nostalgic chord in me.
One of the more entertaining aspects of Van Damme’s filmography is how they contrasted with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in one very distinct way. It’s always kind of hilarious how almost every Schwarzenegger film acts as though he’s an “all-American” guy, regardless of his massive frame and Austrian accent. As though, yes, it makes sense that this body-builder is working an office job in Idaho, or whatever. Many of Van Damme’s films, on the other hand, will go out of their way to justify Van Damme’s … let us say, “tenuous” grasp on the English language.
Though Van Damme plays two characters who were brought up in different sides of the world, they throw in a line about how Chad was raised in France and, though Alex is raised in Hong Kong, we are shown that all of the nuns running the orphanage are French and all of the orphans pass the time singing “Frère Jacques”. It’s such a hilariously specific stretch that you can’t help but applaud the effort. These odd plot contortions, again, are part of the charm that comes with these kinds of flicks.
The problem with the movie’s gimmick is … how can I put this delicately? Van Damme doesn’t really do much to differentiate the two brothers and neither does the screenplay. As a result, the movie goes out of its way to refer to the respective brothers directly by their first names at every opportunity, just in case we didn’t know which one was being focused on.
The film also doesn’t give Alex, the “bad boy” of the twins, much to do. Though this is clearly sold as a double act, there’s no question that Chad is the hero of this film. He saves the day every time, with more than a few cutaways to Alex just looking kind of out-of-sorts, drinking whiskey back at his chalet while Chad is dealing out spin kicks and rescuing damsels. He’s so uninvolved in the action that at one point, he literally gets drunk and, in the movie’s most gratuitous use of unnecessary T&A, imagines his girlfriend cheating on him with this brother. He’s meant to be a hard-nosed badass, but really he’s just kind of a jerk.
Still, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. Despite the run of the mill villains and bland script, director Sheldon Lettich shoots the film well. In his third collaboration with Van Damme, having written the screenplay for Bloodsport and served as writer/director on Lionheart, Lettich clearly understands how to handle a singular talent like Van Damme and get the most out of his star. The action scenes are occasionally a little stiff, but it’s easy to see what’s happening on the screen (especially since many of Van Damme’s kicks are lovingly edited in slow motion).
The early shootout is another highlight. It’s genuinely tense and framed in interesting ways, such as the shot of a bullet going through a car window and into lead henchman Moon’s face. The weird fantasy love scene is shot with an early-era MTV polish that feels more in line with a late-night Cinemax movie, which yet again, oddly enhances the enjoyable cheese factor of the flick as a whole.
Since I brought up Moon, it’s probably the time to say that he surprisingly becomes the highlight of the film. The actor playing Moon, Bolo Yeung, famously went up against Jean Claude Van Damme once before this, in Bloodsport. He’s given a little bit more to do here than simply have crazy eyes and look like a absolute killing machine. In another move that screams 80s/90s action, he is disfigured in the opening sequence, with a bullet going through both cheeks. He spends the rest of the movie with some very subtle but effective makeup, with a dead glassy eye and a wicked scar on either side of his face. It’s interesting to see Yeung in a much more restrained role than in Bloodsport or Enter the Dragon. He’s infinitely more imposing as a raspy-voiced heavy than as the wild-eyed maniac we’ve seen in other roles (though we do get some of that here, as well).
The moments when the two brothers are in a frame together are mostly done pretty well, with only a few moments looking kind of blurry and not particularly well-matched. This is likely exacerbated by the beautiful transfer on the new Blu-ray release, because I remember it not looking quite so obvious when I caught this on television as a kid. Then again, I also thought the CGI in Attack of the Clones was rad, so what did I know?
The point is the fight that everyone has been waiting for, the one that presumably put butts in seats in theaters and couches (for those sweet, sweet edited-for-content TNT airings), the showdown between the two Van Dammes, is actually pretty well-done. Using a mix of body doubles (brothers Jeff and Jerry Rector) and clever editing, the fight ends up looking fairly convincing, even if the choreography isn’t quite as thrilling as one would hope. It’s still an impressive feat, considering it’s all done through practical effects and quick cuts.
This Blu-Ray release is well-worth seeking out for any fans of JCVD and this very specific brand of action flick, if only for the bonus features. As I mentioned before, MVD have gone all out with supplemental material for this release. There’s a two-part making of documentary that sees many of the players and crew of Double Impact reminiscing about the experience of making the film, from the pitch all the way to the premiere. It’s nice to see everyone has something of a sense of humor about the movie, poking fun at its premise and the behavior of their own characters. In particular, there’s something very endearing about seeing the man himself, Jean Claude Van Damme, hamming it up for the camera and thinking fondly of this picture, all while wearing a baseball cap bearing his own initials.
There are several other behind the scenes featurettes on the disc, including one with director Sheldon Lettich walking the viewer through his process, as well as several promotional videos that were cut together for the film’s original release. It’s a virtual compendium of all things Double Impact and MVD deserve a commendation for their dedication to compiling all of this together. It shows a real love and fondness for the material that fans of this genre will really appreciate.
While Double Impact isn’t exactly the movie you’d likely hope it would be, it’s still an entertaining romp and a beautiful representation of an era of action flicks that seems to have gone away. A movie like this can only really be judged by how much fun it is to watch, and this one is a goofy good time. I’d definitely recommend this release in particular for fans of Jean Claude Van Damme, as they may gain an even greater appreciation for just how much this guy clearly loves making movies.