I know it’s not true, but sometimes my memory tricks me into believing I needed to see a new Jean-Claude Van Damme movie about every other week when I was one-half of a movie review radio program in the early nineteen-nineties. Maybe that’s in part because, on deep level of my subconscious, I count this movie twice.
Double Impact is the kind of film that can frighten you just with its premise. It’s not that the film is intended to be a masterpiece of horror. It’s just that by discovering the film’s plot and reading through the credits, one realizes that Jean-Claude Van Damme will be playing a dual role. There will be times that you look up at the screen and see not one but two Van Dammes. Imagine The Parent Trap with roundhouse kicks. It’s enough to make any film critic wake up screaming in the middle of the night.
In Double Impact, Van Damme plays twin brothers who were separated when they were only six months old and their parents were brutally murdered in Hong Kong. One brother eventually relocates to Los Angeles, but first he’s raised in France. This explains his French accent. The other brother remains in Hong Kong and is raised in an orphanage where the children sing French songs such as “Frère Jacques.” This apparently explains his French accent.
The two brothers are reunited so that they can reclaim what is rightfully theirs and get some revenge in the process. Van Damme approaches the sizable challenge of a dual role by slicking his hair back and smoking a cigar when he plays the tougher brother and smiling a lot when he plays the nicer brother.
But then, one doesn’t watch a Jean-Claude Van Damme feature for the subtle nuances. It’s the well-choreographed fight scenes that his fans are after, and Jean-Claude in a double role should mean twice the Van-Damage, right? Wrong. Double Impact seems too preoccupied with the other mindless subplots that run throughout it to get down to the business of being an action. And worst of all, they give Van Damme a gun, robbing him of the only thing he’s got going for him: his truly impressive martial arts skills.
When the big guy starts sending villains down with his super-360-aerial-death-kick, or whatever he calls it, the film finally generates a spark of excitement. But to sit through something as boring and empty-headed as Double Impact just for a sampling of martial arts magic seems a bit too much to ask, even coming from Jean-Claude Van Damme.
1 star, out of 4.