Double Impact (1991)

Double Impact (1991)
  • Time: 118 min
  • Genre: Action | Comedy | Crime
  • Director: Sheldon Lettich
  • Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Geoffrey Lewis, Alonna Shaw


Jean Claude Van Damme plays a dual role as Alex and Chad, twins separated at the death of their parents. Chad is raised by a family retainer in Paris, Alex becomes a petty crook in Hong Kong. Seeing a picture of Alex, Chad rejoins him and convinces him that his rival in Hong Kong is also the man who killed their parents. Alex is suspicious of Chad, especially when it comes to his girlfriend.

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  • For the early part of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s film career when his popularity began to rise, there was one person Van Damme frequently was associated with. That man was Sheldon Lettich, a director, writer and producer to some of Van Damme’s early successes like Bloodsport (1988) and Lionheart (1990). Yet even with Lettich not taking part in all of Van Damme’s productions, a number of the same writing elements worked their way into each screenplay. Up to this film, almost every film starring Van Damme portrayed a character who had nothing to lose and went into a situation that seemed practically hopeless but pulled through despite the odds. Initially, this formula works a couple times but it does become apparent very quickly. Interestingly enough, this movie has a number of similarities as well, but in some ways it also feels like it’s parodying that to some degree.

    Again directed and written by Sheldon Lettich along with Van Damme, the story is about two brothers named Chad and Alex Wagner (played by Van Damme) who end up being separated as babies after a mob hit on their family because of a construction agreement between China and the US. Fathering Chad in the US is Frank Avery (Geoffrey Lewis) a good friend of his parents. As for Alex, his childhood took place in China where the mob hit happened. After 25 years, Frank and Chad head to China and meet up with Alex and his girlfriend Danielle Wilde (Alonna Shaw). Together they search for the truth to whether the mob hit was due to protest or if it was from the inside, ordered by Nigel Griffith (Alan Scarfe). Watching close by is another deadly archenemy of the Wagners named Moon (Bolo Yeung) who acquired an equally deadly looking scar from Avery during the mob hit. As an overall product of the story, it’s entertainment fluff. Like stated before, the writing uses the usual Van Damme formula and somewhat puts it on its head.

    Again, Van Damme plays a character(s) with nothing to lose (other than one friend) and set out to get back what’s rightfully theirs. There’s also a subplot where Alex becomes jealous about his brother who believes he’s out to sleep with his girlfriend (it doesn’t go far). The most noticeable problem in the writing is that the motivation to attain what is rightfully the Wagner brother’s is ultimately lost in the execution. Like several other Van Damme flicks, the whole run time is based on revenge and that’s it. There’s nothing more than that but once it’s realized, the story feels kind of shallow. The characters do help the story though. Jean-Claude Van Damme as two brothers would seem unnecessary but he ends up pulling it off decently. Van Damme plays both characters like they know how to use firearms and fight. Chad is more innocent by nature than his brother. Alex on the other hand is a much more gruff and no-nonsense type of guy. It’s also nice with the distinguishable contrasts between them, that way viewers will know the difference.

    The other two actors who give the film an entertainment boost are performances by Geoffrey Lewis and Bolo Yeung. Geoffrey Lewis has always had underrated roles in film and this one is no different. Lewis playing the father figure to one of the Van Damme characters is mostly believable and they both have acceptable chemistry on screen. It’s difficult not to enjoy Lewis’ roles. The same goes for Yeung who continuously casts himself in villain roles. Although Moon is nowhere near as memorable as his role in Bloodsport (1988) as Chong Li, Yeung still looks like he had fun and his presence is still one that is not to be messed with. The action is nicely integrated into the direction of the film. There are plenty of shootouts and fistfights, all of which show Van Damme’s skill. And yes, for those who have to see Van Damme doing his signature split, he does that too.

    The cinematography looked competently shot too. Behind the camera for this production was Richard H. Kline best known for his work on The Andromeda Strain (1971), The Mechanic (1972), King Kong (1976), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), and Body Heat (1981). There’s a mix of shots that range between Hong Kong China and island rendezvous points that look gorgeous due to the sheer lushness of the tropical landscape. Plus, Kline’s work and with several tricks, the ability to keep Van Damme playing two characters at once looks real. There’s only one questionable shot that looks spliced on top of each other but everything else looks like it was Van Damme had a twin. The music was a disappointment though. Composed by Arthur Kempel, the orchestral cues sound organic but there really isn’t much to say about them other than it sounds like it belongs to a movie and has music appropriate for the setting with several percussion instruments. It is quite forgettable.

    The story takes other elements from previous Van Damme films and turns it on its side with Van Damme playing his own double. It is different and it works out but its execution just leads to more action fluff, which isn’t bad, just empty. The characters are likable along with forgettable music, but that’s it.

    Points Earned –> 6:10

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