Double Dragon

1994, Movie, NR, 93 mins

Review

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Based on the popular video arcade game, DOUBLE DRAGON is a surprisingly timid and largely toothless action fantasy for kids.

In the year 2007, after a major earthquake, Los Angeles is now "New Angeles" and is partially submerged under the Pacific Ocean; police have ceded control of the night to gangs who roam the city after curfew. Evil businessman Koga Shuko (Robert Patrick) is scheming to gain ultimate power through a medallion called the "double dragon." He retrieves one half of it (which gives him supernatural abilities) from China. The other half belongs to a young woman named Satori (Julia Nickson), the guardian of martial artist brothers Jimmy (Mark Dacascos) and Billy Lee (Scott Wolf). One night, Jimmy and Billy are saved from a vicious Mohawk gang by Marian (Alyssa Milano), leader of the Power Corps, a group of underground rebels fighting the punks. Satori entrusts her medallion to Billy just before Koga and his goons show up to claim it; in the ensuing fight, the Lees' abandoned theater home is blown up and Satori is killed.

Koga takes control of all the city's gangs and sends them after the Lees, who escape them after a lengthy chase and reach the hidden base of the Power Corps. Marian joins Jimmy and Billy in invading Koga's headquarters, but the trio are caught while trying to steal his half of the medallion. After a fierce fight with Koga and his assorted henchmen, Billy and Marian manage to escape back to the Power Corps base. Koga and his army of punks soon arrive to take on the Power Corps, while Jimmy, possessed by Koga's spirit, fights his own brother. Protected by his half of the medallion, Billy restores his brother to normal, and although Koga briefly gets his hands on both halves and almost bests the Lees, they ultimately reclaim the medallion and defeat Koga.

While not as ponderous and overblown as STREET FIGHTER, another video game-based 1994 movie, DOUBLE DRAGON is depressingly lightweight, making constant and unnecessary concessions to youthful audiences at the expense of any real bite or impact. Music video director Jim Yukich, making his feature debut, keeps things moving, but there's no real sense of danger to any of the proceedings, and the martial arts sequences are more frenetic than exhilarating. In particular, the final confrontation between the brothers and Koga is surprisingly unexciting, resorting to silliness like Billy's using the medallion's power to possess the villain, making him slap himself and write a big check to the police department. This may keep things non-violent for the kiddies, but it's no way to satisfy an audience.

This jokey approach is typical of the script as a whole, which at times aspires to ROBOCOP-style futuristic satire, complete with clips from 21st-century newscasts hosted by George Hamilton and Vanna White (who nonetheless do not appear to have significantly aged). But most of the humor is lame, often depending on silly pop-culture references, as when Koga greets a pair of underlings, "Huey? Lewis? What's the news?" or when a villain confronts Marian with "Now who's the boss?" in reference to Milano's popular sitcom. Even the movie's depiction of a flooded future is shaky: in one shot, the water has risen to just below the Hollywood sign, while in another, it's low enough that Grauman's Chinese Theater is visible. Gaffes like these only point up the generally careless approach of DOUBLE DRAGON. (Violence, profanity.) leave a comment

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