My first acquaintance with the Double Dragon feature film was through a collection of video captures hosted on the X-Entertainment web site. Even they could not prepare me for the purely abysmal experience that the film proper represents. Like so many video game films after it, Double Dragon takes a perfectly good idea for a video game and turns it into an abysmal feature film. The film itself has a few things in common with the video game: the title and a few character names. The game featured one or two players moving a character from the left of the screen to the right, punching and kicking seven bells out of anyone who dared to get in their way. Unfortunately, Greenleaf Productions and director James Yukich thought that by aiming the film at children too young to remember any of the video games, they might make some money. Fortunately, the adults who were old enough to have played the classic video games ignored the film as it deserved. We certainly would not want the powers that be in Hollywood getting the idea that we actually like this kind of crap, after all.
The first problem lies in the screen writing. What made the video games so compelling was that they made as little effort as possible to differentiate its setting from the reality of the player. The story, such as it was, was secondary to people beating each other senseless. In the feature film, the writers attempt to give the story of Double Dragon a background, a motivation, or a reality. They manage to get all three, that much is true, but they all come out the same way: incredibly silly. Making matters worse is some incredibly stupid costume design. I do not know who designed Alyssa Milano's attire for this flick, but I am just betting they spent much of the time when they first saw what they had made laughing at poor Alyssa. Whomever designed the makeup effects for the Abobo character should have been arrested for crimes against the viewer. I do not know exactly what they were trying to achieve with all the lumpage on his body, but whatever it is, they failed. Perhaps his best scene is when Milano is force-feeding him spinach in one of the weirdest interrogations on film.
Also looking to fire their agent is Robert Patrick, who was at the time struggling to capitalise on his burst of fame after Terminator 2. Perhaps his agent told him that films based upon video games were going to be the new big thing. What the agent forgot to mention was that while they were a new big thing, they were a new big thing in unintentional comedy. Preceded by one year with Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon set a new low in cinematic history that it took another five years to worsen in the form of Wing Commander. I have no doubt in my mind at all that when Patrick looks back at this film, he thinks to himself "this is the moment I took what was still a salvageable career, and flushed it down the can". His performance is utterly terrible here, so I am inclined to blame the level of pathetic that Double Dragon reaches upon the director. After all, he has shown already that he is more than capable of turning in a good performance with halfway decent direction. Not that a good performance from either would have saved this cinematic abortion.
Another problem for a film based upon a beat-em-up video game is that the fight scenes are terribly executed. The camera rarely sits still long enough to make out what is going on, the choreography is utterly terrible, and the actors chosen for the parts clearly have no idea what they are doing. Was it really that difficult to get some people who really know their martial arts for the task? Hell, let's farm the rights out to Golden Harvest, they at least know how to choreograph a halfway decent fight scene. Especially poor are the scenes with Abobo, where none of the superhuman strength the film goes to great pains to tell us he has is actually utilised. Much like Michael Beck in Xanadu, he is really there as window dressing. Part of the problem here is that the canonical character Abobo is meant to appear superhuman in size, and the film just goes too far in trying to maintain that illusion. It would be better to have left the character out of the story altogether than present us with the tumour-encrusted visage we get here.
Even as an unintentional comedy, Double Dragon is a failure. Sure, there are moments when the viewer is either going to laugh or cry, the moment when Marian force-feeds Abobo spinach being a prime candidate. However, these moments are too infrequent, and the film takes itself far too seriously otherwise, for this to be anything other than a mean-spirited laugh at the principal actors. Half of the dialogue sounds like it was ADRed by prepubescent children, and none of the actors save Robert Patrick look like they could punch their way out of a bag of potato chips. I can still remember when the advertising corps. made a big deal about this being a film based on a video game, back in the days before films based on video games had a reputation for being universally terrible. And I still wonder what the hell Alyssa Milano's costume designer was smoking. In at least half of the shots she is in, she looks like she is contemplating force-feeding spinach to her agent until he vomits up a lung.
For these reasons, I gave Double Dragon a one out of ten. Between watching this film again and being given a spinach enema, I would choose the spinach. You must be wicked hardcore if you can sit through this.
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