I think this is how the pitch meeting went.
JCVD: I have an idea for a new action movie, where I play twins.
Producer: Okay! How are you going to tell them apart?
JCVD: Well, one of them has terrible dress sense, and the other is a violently misogynist homophobe!
Producer: Here’s a blank cheque!
JCVD plays Chad and Alex, twins separated in infancy, thanks to their father being double-crossed by his business partners in building a tunnel from Hong Kong to the mainland. Chad is taken to an orphanage, eventually becoming a low-level smuggler, and Alex is kept by Frank, his Dad’s old head of security and taken round the world, eventually settling somewhere in the USA, probably, where they run a combined aerobics / karate school. Luckily, both brothers have identical accents and are equally badass at martial arts. Wait, what? Ah, never mind, let’s get to the good stuff.
Chad, in his line of work, gets to meet his Dad’s old friends, who are now into big-league drug running. But Frank turns up with Alex, the two brothers rescue each other a few times, and they decide to work together to take down the drug operation and get back their rights to the tunnel and all the money it earns.
Writer / director Sheldon Lettich had worked with JCVD before, on “Bloodsport”, and that formed a friendship that went on til at least 2006 (Lettich hasn’t really worked since then). This is their second film as director and star, after “Lionheart”,which sounds pretty awesome too, and that relationship helps JCVD, whose strengths are played to throughout. I worry about making too much of this, but he can act! Kind of! We have visual cues to which brother we’re watching at all times, but he does make an effort. He’s also credited as a co-writer.
The fights are really well staged too. When the two brothers fight each other, the angles are all done well and there’s no real moment where one guy is in an unnatural position because it’s JCVD’s stunt double. The firefights aren’t quite so strong, as no-one seems to be able to shoot worth a damn unless it’s plot-relevant, but none of it is bad.
We’ve got strong fights, a director who knows the best way to use his star, great locations (it looks like Hong Kong just closed off streets for them whenever they asked) and a really strong plot. Yes, really strong – their attempts to take down the criminal enterprise are handled well, with Alex’s girlfriend Danielle on the inside working for the evil land development company providing tension. It’s a real action thriller film rather than just a bunch of fights strung together.
The rest of the cast is loaded with good people. Bolo Yeung is the main henchman, and is great as always, but though he was around when they were infants, he appears to have not aged a day in 25 years. At least give him a bit of grey hair, you guys! Plus, fans of horror cinema might be interested in a very brief cameo from Julie Strain as a martial arts student, from around the same time she was a Penthouse Pet, right at the very beginning of her career.
But as I mentioned above, there’s some serious problems. Alex calls Chad “faggot” on multiple occasions, and when Chad has to rush off to save Danielle without Alex, he gets drunk, waits for them to get back then hits her, pretty hard. Does he apologise or show any growth before she rushes back into his arms at the end? No, he just saves the day and, as we know, women are prizes to awarded for competence, not people with their own thoughts, feelings or agency.
Provided you’re prepared to talk to any impressionable viewers of this about the occasionally rotten attitudes, you’ll really enjoy this. It looks great, moves along quickly, has loads of action and also shows you just how insanely packed with people Hong Kong was at the time – it’s always fun to see how much access film crews used to be able to get to stuff before landowners realised they could charge them for everything they did.
Rating: thumbs up