Monday, February 18, 2013

A Series of Unfortunate Choices: Double Dragon

Today on Progressive_Scan we take a closer look at a beautiful train wreck of a film, the 1994 video game adaptation Double Dragon.

Some quantum physicists tells us that every decision that is made creates two alternate universes- one for each potential outcome. If this is true then we must live in an amazingly unique universe- one where literally thousands of opportunities for someone to stop the production of the video game movie Double Dragon were missed. I feel sad for those other universes, because even though they are arguably better places, they have one fewer wonder and mystery on their hands.

Lets run down the oddities of this thing: First of all, its a big budget video game adaptation released only a year AFTER Super Mario Bros- the floppiest video game movie flop that ever flopped. Second, it has a crazy list of cameos from a rogue's gallery of 90s stars who (at the time) really could have done better- George Hamilton, Andy Dick, Vanna White, and Alyssa Milano in a starring role as the female lead. Third, as one half of an invincible martial arts duo they cast...the kid from Party of Five.

The setting for Double Dragon is post-apocalyptic Los Angeles in the far off year of 2007. Apparently right about the time that I was celebrating my second wedding anniversary LA was leveled by a terrible earthquake. Somehow I missed that. The rebuilt city (filled with crazy support structures apparently required to keep the buildings from falling down?) was renamed New Angeles, and was immediately taken over by a coalition of Warriors style themed gangs.

Robert Patrick (who had fallen a long way since Terminator 2, just two years previous) plays some sort of hyper rich CEO/gang leader who is searching for the other half of a magic amulet that will allow him to something something rule the world. It’s not well communicated, but the impression one gets is that him having both halves would be bad. Even using the one half he does have has he can turn himself into some kind of expensive 90s special effect and slide around walls and through doors as a shadow. To say that Robert Patrick goes broad with this character would be a massive understatement. He plays the guy as an over the top cartoon villian, who despite the movie’s best efforts to convince you otherwise is completely non-threatening.

Set against him are our heroes, brothers and holders of the second half of the amulet, Jimmy and Billy Lee. It’s never addressed why one brother is asian and the other is white, but that is really the least of the movie’s problems. More pressing is the fact that these two are presented as martial arts experts that have been training since they could walk and one of them is played by Scott Wolf, aka the scrawny kid from Party of Five. His complete lack of martial arts ability is painfully (and often hilariously) apparent throughout the film, which tries to cover him using such obvious tricks as having him punch or kick something just off screen before cutting to a bad guy ostentatiously throwing himself to the ground in an unrelated shot. It looks even worse in contrast to his brother Billy, played by the future Chairman of Iron Chef America Mark Dacascos, who most definitely knows what he is doing. The result is that in a movie that is billed as a martial arts/action film the main characters do a lot of screaming and Scooby Doo running to avoid having to reveal what a crappy fighter one of them is.

Also, they have their own special high five. Its ridiculous.

The brothers are helped out in their quest to defeat the evil Robert Patrick by Alyssa Milano and her pastel tie-dye gang, who are trying to clean up the streets of New Angeles using crossbows and weird half-legless pants. 

The film does do a few things well. The special effects are pretty good for the mid 90s. The cinematography is solid, with a few really interesting compositions. Someone put a lot of work into the set and costume design, and the matte paintings of the destroyed LA are well done and well integrated. Hopefully all those people were able to get better work after Double Dragon, because their efforts were really wasted on this terrible film.

Terrible? Yes. Worth watching anyway? Oh my yes. This is definitely a so-bad-its-good kind of situation, best watched in a group with plenty of beer and popcorn on hand. Its on Netflix instant, and you should experience this thing for yourself as soon as possible.


  1. 1) How do you keep making me want to watch these awful movies?
    2) One day I must watch them with you, because I feel that makes them better somehow. You are like a garnish. A garnish... of awesome.

  2. Awww, thanks man.

    But seriously, this one has to be seen to be believed.

  3. twas a really amazingly bad movie. The fact that this was made two years after T2 just blows my mind.