DOUBLE IMPACT: 2 Van Dammes For The Price Of 1 = Best Deal In Cinema History?

JCVD On The Streets / JCVD In The Sheets

Chad is a ditz. Alex is a dick. But they’re both played by peak Jean-Claude Van Damme, on the same screen, at the same time, so therefore Double Impact is a good movie.

Twin brothers separated at birth when their parents are betrayed and murdered by some shady Hong Kong businessmen, Chad and Alex are different animals who have no idea the other exists until a screenplay required them to unite and kick ass.

It’s mathematics more than anything that proves Double Impact is awesome. The film is a brisk 110 minutes long. If you tabulate all of the awesomery that occurs during that runtime, Double Impact’s excellence simply cannot be disproven. Here are just a few objectively fantastic elements of Double Impact.

First and foremost, Van Damme gets to play two characters in a single film. This is the entire hook and reason for the film to exist. Fortunately, director Sheldon Lettich (a team Van Damme stalwart) was keenly aware of this and wastes no time paying off on the premise. Loaded with old school in-camera tricks, analog special effects, and ever-so-slightly-off-sight-lines blocking, it’s a total blast watching Chad and Alex squabble, flex, and eventually bond. You aren’t usually coming to a Van Damme joint for the special effects, but here there’s just so much fun trickery at work you can’t help but be charmed.

Van Damme’s performance is also pretty wonderful, frankly. In this dojo, no “Van Damme is a bad actor” takes are allowed. It simply isn’t true. Sure, his Dutch accent often has to be explained in throwaway lines of dialog, and makes little sense here for L.A.-based Chad or Hong Kong-based Alex. But get past the accent and enjoy the sheer force of will that made Van Damme a star. No one accuses Van Damme the man as having been a perfect person, but his movie star bona fides are present for the world to see. The guy busts his ass to entertain us. Chad and Alex aren’t exactly Shakespearian characters, but Van Damme infuses them with totally distinct presences and sells the movie hard. Alex is filled with rage, a hardened criminal raised on the streets of Hong Kong after his nursemaid leaves him on a convent doorstep. He has what appears to modern audiences to be an abusive relationship with his girlfriend (Alonna Shaw in a thankless role), and he’s a cigar-chomping, gravely-voiced pirate. Chad, however, was raised by his “Uncle” Frankie (beloved character actor Geoffrey Lewis) in France (accent explained!) and L.A. Chad is a silk-underwear-wearing lothario who teaches karate and aerobics to Valley Girls. Van Damme hams it up with Chad, effortlessly making him charismatic but occasionally cringe-inducing. I will say that a knock against Double Impact is that neither Chad or Alex are particularly likable guys, and their behavior feels much more problematic here in 2019 than it did upon release (especially as far as Shaw’s girlfriend character is concerned). But Van Damme wholly succeeds in delivering two distinct characters that share the screen for much of the film’s runtime, and that’s one of Double Impact’s greatest achievements.

The rogues gallery of bad guys here is also absolutely top notch. Most importantly: All-time great screen villain Bolo Yeung (Enter The Dragon, Bloodsport) not only gets to play the heavy here (Moon), but gets to sport both a mean facial scar and a mullet. You’ve also got a female heavy, former Ms. Olympia Cory Everson playing Kara. Female bodybuilders make amazing screen presences, but Everson really makes this into an iconic villain role. There’s also Peter Malota, the film’s fight coordinator, who plays “guy with spurs” and kicks up an awesome sequence towards the end of the film.

The set pieces are also an important part of any action film, and Double Impact has some fun ones. Pre-Van Damme, Geoffrey Lewis actually gets a solid shootout with Bolo Yeung. Then Bolo Yeung gets to punch Chad in the nuts with that patented Van Damme “double impact” editing technique. There’s some fun Hong Kong chase sequences, and of course Chad and Alex have to get into a big jealous brawl, allowing both of those jerks to get roughed up by the other before they put aside their differences, team up, and drop a shipping container on the dude that had their parents murdered. You get great fights and also some slow motion, gun-in-each-hand combat.

So mathematically: 2 Van Dammes, 2+ Bolo Yeung fights, a Geoffrey Lewis shoot out, AND (perhaps the coup de grace) an original 1991 hip hop outro credits song? I rest my case.

The Package

I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to these MVD Rewind Collection reviews, but I absolutely love this release. From the retro-style slipcase to the plethora of bonus features to the programming of this particular title, MVD is doing right by Jean-Claude Van Damme with this, their 3rd feature-rife release of one of his titles in the past couple of years. (The others being Black Eagle and Lionheart).

There’s a full-on feature length documentary on this release, people. Broken into two parts, you get Van Damme himself, director Sheldon Lettich, several stunt performers, producer Ashok Amritaj, and more. It’s not the slickest or glossiest retrospective documentary, but as I always say of MVD, it’s got a scrappy charm to it. And it’s produced uniquely for this release. That is your main bonus feature selling point, but then you’ve also got something like an hour’s worth of deleted and extended sequences, an “Anatomy Of A Scene” deal with Lettich, original promos and trailers, and even a collectible poster. MVD are treating Van Damme like he’s a part of the Criterion Collection right now, and I couldn’t possibly be more here for it.

And I’m Out.

Double Impact Special Collector’s Edition is now available on Blu-ray from MVD Rewind Collection

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