Hong Kong Phooey

Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman make an effective enough Double Team

The many plot holes suggest significant postproduction cutting. (Another hint is that only about 20 minutes' worth takes place at the agents' prison, even though the film was originally titled The Colony.) Lots of the action scenes are inadequately set up; you lose half the punch of blowing up the Colosseum if you don't first establish that it is the Colosseum. (Oh, sure, you recognize it, but millions of teenagers in the target audience won't have a clue.) And why the hell are the catacombs at the Colosseum filled with soda machines? Surely, this bizarre bit of product placement could have been established with a joke.

Still, this is an action film, and the action scenes are well-done. Tsui got to use some of his familiar Hong Kong crew on parts of Double Team, and you have to wish he had used them even more. American Charles Picerni is action-sequence choreographer and stunt coordinator, but the credits also list the great Samo Hung as special action choreographer and Xin Xin Xiong (who played the character Clubfoot in several of the Once Upon a Time in China films) as action choreographer. (The production notes claim that Samo's buddy Jackie Chan showed up for a visit and also helped out.)

It's tough to be sure just who did what. A lot of the fancy camerawork in the amusement park resembles Samo's stuff. But the one sequence I'll bet a week's pay was staged by these Hong Kong masters is also the most exciting in the whole movie: In the middle of a big, pretty good shootout scene, the film suddenly shifts into overdrive when Quinn is attacked by a bald Chinese assassin (Xin Xin Xiong). For just a minute or two, we get a taste of the sort of punched-up, thrilling fight staging that is practically commonplace in Hong Kong movies. It's such a transcendent moment that you wonder why Tsui Hark didn't shoot the whole film that way.

Double Team
Directed by Tsui Hark; with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman and Mickey Rourke.


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