Awfully Good: Double Team

Double Team (1997)

Director: Tsui Hark
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, Mickey Rourke

Is there a plot?

Close your eyes. Imagine the two men you would trust to stop the world's most deadly terrorist. Okay, now forget those guys and replace them with Jean Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman.

What's the damage?

Surely DOUBLE TEAM started off as a joke. There's no way Jean Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman were paired together as anything more than a bet to see which two actors could have the absolute worst chemistry together. I mean, they had to make it this bad on purpose, right? RIGHT?!

It's been a while, but we finally have another entry in our "Nameless Extras Who Look Like Patrick Duffy" series. Click HERE, HERE and HERE for other examples!

The saddest part about this movie is that it effectively began and destroyed the American career of Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, the man responsible for Jet Li's ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA series. And he couldn't have picked a worse film to make his stateside debut. Sure, there's some opportunities to flaunt his overzealous style and Asian action aesthetics, but every other aspect of this movie is made of nightmare. The dialogue is corny enough to belong on a cob, the story is endearingly bizarre, and the film's only cinematic motif seems to be TIGER ATTACK! (in all caps with an exclamation point). And again, even if Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg and Orson Welles had a directing orgy all over this movie, they still couldn't overcome the pairing of Van Damme and Rodman.

Van Damme: The College Years were weird.

We all know what to expect from Jean Claude Van Damme acting-wise and in DOUBLE TEAM he doesn't stray far from his proven formula of painfully awkward line delivery and doing calisthenics in his underwear. (His aggressively grunting training sequence is perhaps the most homoerotic one of its kind since NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER.) Van Damme's love for his kidnapped wife would be the emotional driving force behind the story, except the cringe-worthy two minutes we see them together in the beginning involves him groping his pregnant spouse in a pool and talking about how round, soft and sexy she is.

I have the weirdest boner right now."

Dennis Rodman, on the other hand, plays an effeminate weapons dealer named Yaz. (Yes, like the birth control.) Van Damme says it best when he calls him “a carrot with earrings.” Somehow Rodman manages to change his hair color and style from scene to scene, which I'm assuming means his character is stopping by the salon for highlights and a chemical treatment in the middle of their search for the world's most deadly terrorist. He also only talks or acts in ways related to basketball, which gets old the first time he says, "Defense wins the game" or attempts to free throw a bad guy. Together the Muscles from Brussels and the Wonder Clown of Basketball make for the weirdest action movie pair up. Their banter back and forth is just embarrassing—Van Damme can’t speak English and Rodman is barely natural as a living person, let alone someone who knows kung fu.

This man is now bankrupt. Shocking.

And then there's Mickey Rourke as the Greek villain Stavros, who's decidedly the most interesting part of the movie since he's the only one who seems to realize what he's signed on to. Stavros is a horrible terrorist, but also a dedicated family man who takes it personal when his wife and son are accidentally killed during a raid at an amusement park—from being slashed by a random tiger that has no reason being there, and then immediately getting shot. Rourke blames Van Damme personally for his loss and reacts to the death of his son the same way you and I would—by running in to the nearest hospital and trying to kill a baby with a grenade. Not only is this ludicrous but it's also a blatant ripoff of Hark's friend John Woo's HARD BOILED.

I'll take "Things Mickey Rourke Said to Kim Basinger for 100!"

After botching the raid, Van Damme is sent to The Colony, a think tank where special agents who are no longer useful but know too much are sent…to be pampered at a glorious resort. It's at this point where DOUBLE TEAM turns in to a weird hi-tech sci-fi movie for 20 minutes, sharing a few curious similarities with LOST. They're trapped on a hidden island they can’t escape, supplies are dropped from planes randomly, and they sit in a room pushing buttons to help save the world from bad guys. Even though this is infinitely more interesting than any other part of the movie, when Van Damme sees that Stavros has kidnapped his wife, he realizes he must escape. He does this by calling forth his best MacGuyver skills to use a Coke bottle, a funnel, an eraser, a pencil and part of his own finger to trick the fingerprint scanner, avoids death lasers in the ocean and ride the outside of a cargo plane all the way home.

JCVD Explosion Face #1™

It is here that Van Damme sadly hooks up with Rodman for the final act. They travel to a monastery where a network of underground cyber monks helps them locate Stavros. (Not only is that last sentence incomprehensibly ridiculous, but Rodman's other action movie SIMON SEZ also features jive-talking monk sidekicks. Is this something Rodman demands to be written in to his scripts?) The pair then jumps out of a plane using Rodman's new invention that’s “better than a parachute”—a giant inflatable basketball that defies physics and supposedly forms a protective cocoon around them for when they hit the ground at terminal velocity. Why this was deliberately written in to the script, I have no idea. But I blame Dennis Rodman.

JCVD Explosion Face #2™

Since DOUBLE TEAM exists in a world with cyber monks, magic parachute balls and glass so thin that simply tapping on it will cause it to explode in a million perfectly-lighted shards, it's fitting that the film should have the craziest ending you can imagine. In the breathtaking conclusion, a shirtless Mickey Rourke makes Van Damme and Rodman fight a tiger in the Roman Colosseum, which is also booby trapped with land mines surrounding Van Damme's newborn baby. It's like a running list of random awesomeness. I don't think I'm spoiling anything when I say Van Damme wins the fight, which causes Rourke to die perhaps the greatest villain death in the history of ever. I want to highlight this next sentence in case you're just skimming this article:


If that's not enough, Rourke's seemingly normal land mines trigger a massive nuclear explosion that completely levels The Colosseum, an explosion which Van Damme and Rodman survive by hiding behind an indestructible Coke vending machine. (Is there more awkward product placement than being the one brand of soda that survives a terrorist attack?) And just when you thought the ending couldn't get worse/better, the film cuts to the credits with a techno song by Dennis Rodman.


"Best" Line

Terrible banter between Van Damme and Rodman and other weird, horrible one-liners.

"Best" Parts

1) Enjoy these greatest hits featuring Van Damme's homoerotically charged training, Mickey Rourke breaking glass, and the amazing ending.


2) Some of the best fights and action moments, many of which involve the game of basketball.




Nudity Watch

I'm pretty sure you can see Van Damme's junk through his shorts once or twice if you really want to.

Enjoyableness Continuum:

Oops…air ball. Buy this movie here!

Play Along at Home!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • There is an analogy or one-liner about basketball
  • Glass is broken
  • Van Damme trains to electric guitar
  • Someone yells, "Noooo!"
  • Van Damme jumps from an explosion
  • Somebody is randomly not wearing a shirt
  • A camera shot calls attention to itself

Double shot if:

  • Van Damme does the splits


Thanks to another Jason and Will for persistently suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Source: Digital Dorm
Tags: awfully good



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