Believe it or not, this film has a lot in common with 1991’s “Hudson Hawk”. Okay, the cast is several orders of magnitude less famous, and it was a lot cheaper to produce; the similarity isn’t really their box office failure either. It’s that both films were comedies that didn’t take themselves seriously and were over-the-top on purpose, and the huge majority of reviews of both don’t seem to grasp that, thinking that making a heist film (or a martial arts film) with so many oddball characters and insane situations detracts from the movie; to that, I say they ARE the movie.
After a primer on the mystical Double Dragon amulet and how, if the two halves of it were united, the world would be blah blah blah, we’re introduced to the heady far off future of 2007, and the city of New Angeles. Earthquakes have done for this city, but it seems the entire world is in flux, with damage being environmental? We discover this thanks to TV news, and the first indication that isn’t your average post-apocalyptic kung-fu movie is the news crew – George Hamilton, Vanna White, and Andy Dick, all playing themselves. Add this to some funny quake protection adverts and it’s immediately apparent that someone actually bothered building up an interesting world for this movie to be in.
The villain is Robert Patrick, playing “Koga Shuko”, who just wants your standard world domination and knows that the complete amulet will give it to him- he already has half. The streets of New Angeles are no-go areas at night, with a curfew leaving the gangs in complete control; Shuko is behind the scenes using them to find the amulet – imagine the various gangs of “The Warriors”, but with no need to tie them to any sense of reality, and you’d be pretty close. The sole beacon in this pretty dark future is “The Power Corps”, a loose and friendly gang led by Marian (Alyssa Milano, post “Commando” and pre “Charmed”) and into this mess step the Lee brothers, Jimmy and Billy (Mark Dacascos and Scott Wolf). Explanation for them not exactly looking like brothers? Zero. I love this movie! Their foster mother / guardian owns the rest of the amulet, and it’s her death at the hands of Shuko that really gets the brothers pumped for revenge.
BREAKING BAD! Okay, that’s just an attempt to get some search engine action, but there is a strong link to “Double Dragon”. This movie’s scriptwriter was Peter Gould, who would go on to be a producer on “Breaking Bad” as well as write 11 episodes. Is your dismissal of its cheesy dialogue and ridiculous dystopian storyline starting to change a little now? Are you drifting towards the “it was always a minor gem” camp? See, I’ve loved it ever since I first saw it, so I don’t have that problem.
Apart from Milano, who’s trying her hardest, everyone seems to just be having a good time in this movie. Wolf and Dacascos have an easy camaraderie, Patrick is in full scenery-chewing mode, and the assorted gang members (including a brief cameo from horror superstar Michael Berryman) are overacting like their lives depended on it.
This film wasn’t cheap – there are a ton of well-dressed sets, lots of extras and actors, large-scale fight and chase scenes, and some decent special effects. I couldn’t find any confirmation of the budget, but it can’t have been small; there’s a lot of detail in the movie that you wouldn’t normally find – like, the way their car operates, and lots of little references to the actors’ other work in the dialogue. I think its comparatively poor performance at the box office allowed people to treat it as a bit of a punching bag, so like “Hudson Hawk”, the mockery it gets is wildly out of proportion with the quality of the film itself; by now, its very 90s aesthetic means it can be safely dismissed too.
Now, I don’t want to make out like it’s a great lost classic, but there’s quality here, and it’s a lot of fun to watch, with a surprisingly satisfying ending. The fights are great, too, lots of speedy action and some of the set-pieces, like the final battle in the Power Corps base, manage to be both well-choreographed and comedic. Lots of bad puns too, if that’s your thing, and cheesy post-defeat one-liners. I haven’t even mentioned the computer game it’s based on! That’s mostly because I never played it, and now the game is over 25 years old I imagine fans of it are few and far between. Just enjoy it for itself!
Rating: thumbs up