Double Team; that movie that practically destroyed Van Damme’s career and luckily never gave Dennis Rodman one. To me Double Team acts as somewhat of a turning point in how I viewed Van Damme movies. Before this movie all of his 90’s movies had theatrical runs in my country and therefor had great exposure in the media so you’re sure not to miss them. Double Team was the last of that movie I actually was aware of that was released. His next few movies went straight to DVD or had very limited theatrical runs. So I missed out on all of the other movies he starred in until I got internet which was around 2000. So in my opinion, this was the last “big” Jean-Claude van Damme movie, and damn… is it a train wreck.
I wonder who actually would have thought they had something good here when they were reading the script. It has cyber-monks for crying out loud! Who in his right mind would star in a movie with cyber-monks in it and think: this is just what my career needs?
Now I’m getting to the most difficult task; describing the plot while trying to make sense. I’ll try. Van Damme is a counter-terrorist expert who, in the opening scene, saves the world from some weapons who were going to Iraq. After this mission he retires and stays home with his pregnant wife until one of his old pals at the agency lures him back in with Mickey Rourke as bait. Rourke is Stavros, a super terrorist who freelances for everyone who’s willing to pay him. They target him at a busy carnival in Antwerp, but the shit hits the fan and the only people killed who matter to the plot are Stavros’ child and his girl. Stavros escapes and Van Damme is presumed dead… so he ends up where you would expect him to end up: on a secluded island full of ex-special agents and terrorists of whom the world thinks are dead. Here they involuntarily belong to a secret council which aids governments in analyzing and/or stopping terrorist attacks. Of course Van Damme escapes from the island, the first and only person to succeed, and gets back to mainland to save his wife and unborn child out of the clutches of Mickey Rourke while receiving help from the cyber-monks and in his first and luckily last large role: Dennis Rodman, who plays an arms-dealer version of himself.
Yes, Dennis Rodman… the basketball player… with the hair… and the piercings… and the really tight outfits…
Double Team is supposed to be this goofy action movie, and while it’s goofy it never hits the right notes. It’s never fun, exciting or even engaging. We’re supposed to care about Van Damme’s wife, who before she’s kidnapped has a total of 5 minutes of screen time and, I don’t know, 3 lines or so?
Rourke might look the part, but he’s phoning it all in. His Stavros is never really an engaging villain, he lacks charisma. He isn’t even saved by his sad back story… mainly because he’s partially to blame for the death of his girl and kid. He’s also got some weird never explained vision which makes him detect enemies with ease.
Rodman is of course the movie’s weakest link. He’s basically a walking gimmick: he constantly makes references to basketball and wears a different outfit/changes hair color in every scene.
Van Damme looks a bit lost in this movie. The only time he actually seems to be in touch with the material is during the training montages on the secluded island. It has been some time we saw how flexible and athletic he actually is, and in those scenes he’s like a fish in the water. But he apparently doesn’t know how to act with a screen partner who’s dressed up as a flamboyant homosexual going to a rave. The scenes between Rodman and Van Damme lack chemistry.
In some cases a good director could make all this work at least a little bit, but Tsui Hark’s direction is bland. The whole opening chase sequence is a badly choreographed and staged, never feels remotely realistic. At one point I had the idea I was watching some kid playing with his Matchbox cars. The carnival scene was also a mess and I actually had trouble distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys.
Double Team might actually be worse than Street Fighter. At least that one had Raul Julia stealing scenes… This one has Dennis Rodman delivering corny one-liners.