Many of the greats in the action world, Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger for example, get to the point where fighting endless streams of large shoulder padded grey suited and faceless guys named Mr.X gets old and there is nowhere left to go but to fight themselves.
JCVD waited just 8 movies and then said, right, get me a script where I get to play a camp kick boxer and a cigar chomping reprobate with a penchant for hair gel and black clothes.
After a few minutes of this fairly standard flick I was feeling the impact alright, I was unfortunately feeling the impact of the ridiculous and horrendous sight of a highly camp Van Damme in blue lycra doing the splits. Never underestimate the midget Belgian's willingness to utterly embarrass himself for a paycheck.
For those who have not splashed about in the jolly pool of Double Impact I will quickly explain that the film centers around two twins separated at birth, when their parents are gunned down in Hong Kong by a suitably evil yet fairly nondescript triad gang. Really this was all a hand-rubbingly sinister ploy by token Brit villainous businessman to keep all the profits of some tunnel or other. Cut to 25 years later and despite one being in Hong Kong and one being in LA (due to reasons far too convoluted to go into here) both speak in a stilted Belgian accent. This has something to do with one of them being raised in France, (they don't say why) and the other being raised by French Nuns in China, which all makes just about as much sense as it needs to. Neither of them has particularly learnt how to dress without looking completely ridiculous but at least one of them grooms their hair different so we can sort of tell what's going on. Their parent's old bodyguard brings them together to take down the evil Brit and his Chinese henchmen. Cue a series of explosions, gun fights, silly slo-mo kick boxing bits, showdowns and, of course, the obligatory scene where, because of the most ramped up and elaborate jealousy ever witnessed in a movie, they have to fight each other.
Overall the movie is ok. The direction is fine and Hong Kong is always a vibrant and interesting location for films. The supporting cast, including the highly wrinkled, unusually shouty and fairly hopeless Geoffrey Lewis and a totally vacant, not particularly attractive, viking porn star, are mostly rubbish save for an eye-bulgingly psychotic turn from Bolo Yeung. In fact the villains are suitably chin strokingly evil and are all played pretty well including the usual band of menacing henchpersons complete with a scary looking, random lesbian with thighs like a bulls tanned rump that could make a man whince at ten paces. Van Damme isn't totally atrocious either and clearly has a ton of fun playing the gruffer and slightly more manly of the two brothers, Alex as he chomps purposefully on his ever-present cigar and acts his little Belgian muscular heart out.
As the film progresses, however, it's incredible how over the top it all becomes with every scene played out like a Norweigan melodrama. The aforementioned jealousy scene, that is only really in the thing as an excuse to include a Van Damme on Van Damme fight, is utterly tremendous and where the film reaches some sort of absurd pinnacle.
To set the scene briefly, Chad (the wetter of the two brothers yet with awesome kick boxing skills) dashes back to Hong Kong from their island hideout to pick up superfluous blonde lady because she's in trouble with the bad guys and in danger of being violently felt up by the ugly lesbian. Alex (Van Damme as the 'serious' brother) doesn't know where they are and is suddenly, outrageously tortured by pink and blue lit, completely over-the-top, soft-core porn images of Chad schtupping his leggy blonde bit of tail and, despite this never actually happening, resorts to bellowing loudly, chugging and gargling whiskey like it's apple juice and punching random walls until Chad and the breasty one get back and Alex decides to punch him instead. It all ends with Van Damme, as Chad, having a ludicrous strop and storming off to the beach claiming he's going to swim to the mainland. Hysterical.
All in all the action is pretty decent and well choreographed, although not one set piece stands out, except maybe the previously detailed, JCVD vs himself fight. The plot is easy enough to follow, the pacing holds up nicely and it all looks professional enough, even if the special split-screen effects do date it somewhat.
Still, perfect for a weekend afternoon when you have nothing much else to do but watch a Belgian go slowly mad.
6.5 out of 10 warm buttered croissants
Points from The Misses 8 out of 10 warm buttered croissants