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Double Impact (1991)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Geoffrey Lewis, Alonna Shaw, Cory Everson, Bolo Yeung

Written By: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sheldon Lettich Directed By: Sheldon Lettich

The Short Version

Jean-Claude Van Damme takes on Alexandre Dumas!  Seriously.

The identical twins gimmick actually plays pretty well here.

So does the acting.  Really.

The plot doesn’t need to be flawless; what matters is that it’s fun and well paced.

Double Impact is one of Van Damme’s most enjoyable flicks.  Party on.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Snack away, my friends.

Pairs Well With...


But only if you smuggle it in; otherwise, it doesn’t count.  No smuggled cognac?  Guess Johnnie Walker Red swigged straight from the bottle will have to do…

“You of all people should know that I would never in my life wear black silk underwear!”

The year was 1991.  It was the height of the Golden Age of Action Movies, and people just could not get enough of Jean-Claude Van Damme.  The solution was obvious: it was time for “The Muscles From Brussels” to play identical twins!  But where, oh where, to find a story to support such a film…

Why, the “classics” section of the local public library, of course!

And so, armed with a book, The Power of Imagination, and, oh yes, The Significant Help of Some Other Guys, the man once known as Van Varenberg wrote himself a very loose adaptation of “The Corsican Brothers” by Alexandre Dumas.  That was even the working title of the film for quite some time before The Action Movie Powers That Be settled on the more pedestrian-friendly Double Impact.  (There had also been early talk of setting it in France and Corsica, until someone remembered that it was the 1990s and hey, Hong Kong!)

Sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen, right?  Surprise!  It’s actually one of Van Damme’s most enjoyable movies: a solid, standalone action flick the delivers where it counts and never mind what doesn’t.

Our story begins in Hong Kong, circa 1965.  Two partners celebrate a magnificent business achievement: the completion of an underwater tunnel between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.  Quick: how soon do you think it’ll be before one decides to kill the other for the sake of hogging all the profits?  Yeah; thought so.  Bonus: which one gets killed – the single guy with the giant henchpeople, or the married man with the lovely wife and twin baby boys?  Yeah; thought so.

Needless to say, the expected treason occurs that very night, and the nice man and his wife wind up dead.  The future Jean-Claudes – er, the babies – are whisked from the firefight, but end up being rescued by two different people going in two different directions.  The family nursemaid takes one baby to a local orphanage run by French nuns, while the family’s bodyguard takes the other to France.  (Nice how they subconsciously knew that both boys would want matching accents when they grew up.)  And then, twenty-five years pass…

Flash to the “present.”  One of the former babies is a Hong Kong smuggler; the other, a martial arts/aerobics instructor living in Beverly Hills.  But fate won’t let them stay apart forever; soon, they will be brought together for the first time, and from there, fight to reclaim their rightful legacy…

There you go, action fans.  You wanted something with twins?  You’ve got something with twins, and they’re both named Jean-Claude.  So now that you’ve been introduced, what makes Double Impact so much fun?  Here’s a quick three-pronged highlight reel.

Action.  1991.  Duh.  You want action?  This era is where you go for it, and Double Impact represents well.  You want gunplay?  We’ve got gunplay.  You want patented Jean-Claude Van Damme spin kicks?  We’ve got patented Jean-Claude Van Damme spin kicks.  Want to see another guy try one while wearing spurs and aiming for a guy’s throat?  Yeah, this flick goes there.  How about a chokehold executed by way of a henchwoman’s extremely muscular thighs?  Got your attention now, don’t I?

The Powers That Be also remembered to throw in the chase scenes, an exploding car or two, and the fabulous one-liners that are just as important to the Golden Age as the chop socky is.   Then, because they like you, they threw in Bolo Yeung.  Aw, yeah.

And, of course, there are some fun opportunities to watch Jean-Claude Van Damme literally beat himself up.  What would be the point of the guy playing twins if he couldn’t do that, right?

(Also, lest we forget: cheesy end credits music for the win.)

Acting!  1991!  Wow!  One thing that people often don’t expect from this era is acting that surpasses par, but Jean-Claude Van Damme takes advantage of the idea of playing two characters and uses it to show off some thespian muscle.  The “good guy” brother, Chad (recognizable by the hilarious early 90s fashion and hair salad), let’s Van Damme give the audience the familiar, affable hero they’ve come to know and love.  Meanwhile, the “tough guy” brother, Alex (recognizable by the heavy application of “Let’s Be Swarthy” hair gel and a penchant for cigars), may start out as the rough burnout archetype (replacing the profession of “cop” with “smuggler”), but there are some layers of depth there, too, and the actor does a much better job of exploring them than most would want to give him credit for.   (I especially like how he plays his relationship with Danielle.)

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Lewis (whom you will recognize instantly from a thousand things even if you never remember his name) brings his usual strong skills to the supporting line, and Bolo Yeung does his usual outstanding job of acting through body language without having to say much if anything at all.  Also standing out is noted bodybuilder Cory Everson, here playing an evil henchwoman with a presence and gusto that make one wonder why a lot more roles like this didn’t come her way afterward; she certainly displays all the credentials needed to make a good run of it.

When Any Excuse Will Do, Except That One.  It’s a common play for Golden Age action movies to toss the (largely young male) audience something extra by coming up with an excuse to provide some female nudity (and maybe even a little sex, if someone’s feeling particularly generous).  This is usually accomplished by the Hero finding some reason to either head for a strip club or “accidentally” burst in on a couple that’s taking care of business.  But despite the fact that a convenient club scene is written into the story here, it’s not that kind of club, and there’s no cause to burst in on anyone, either.  So when one has bypassed the common excuses and doesn’t have any other sensible catalysts left in one’s script, what is one to do?  Write in a drunken hallucination, of course!

Sound like a throwaway?  Uh-uh; it’s actually an important dramatic hinge for both the overall plot and for the development of its major characters.  It’s also filmed in a highly exaggerated art house style that one can’t help but look upon as utterly hilarious, and I do mean snicker out loud funny.  (Though I do have a lot of respect for the actors involved here, especially Alonna Shaw.  You think you could go on camera naked and do a professional job acting for untold millions of strangers while you’re at it?  Not so easy.)  It’s straight out of left field and it’s totally ridiculous, but it’s too integral to everything to ignore and hey, why would you want to?  As far as these types of scenes go for this genre, this has got to be one of the most ingenious examples out there.

Is Double Impact perfect?  Of course not.  That whole “reclaiming the family legacy” thing that brings the twins together in the first place and that allegedly serves as a major part of their motivation to work together and take down the bad guys?  Yeah.  Lip service.  Even when they talk about it, the subject feels forced, and never actually comes across as a force that drives them.  Not that this matters, mind; the “straight up revenge” thing covers all of the necessary ground that doesn’t involve getting Alex’s lady in trouble, and no one’s really expecting you to think too hard about these things, anyway.  Just have fun with it; everyone else is.

And that, really, is that.

Bottom line, if you’re at all interested in the Golden Age of Action Movies, Double Impact is worth your time.  The action’s good, the actors give better than you’re expecting, and the whole thing is just plain fun.  Kick back and enjoy.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2013

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