Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Jun 17, 2019 Web Exclusive
Jean-Claude Van Damme plays ex-CIA agent Jack Quinn, who’s called out of retirement to settle a score with his former nemesis, ex-CIA-agent-turned-freelance-terrorist Stavros (Mickey Rourke.) Leaving behind his French beach house and expectant wife, Quinn heads to Antwerp to grab a bunch of James Bond-ian gadgetry from a flamboyant weapons dealer by the name of Yaz (Dennis Rodman.) After he’s left for dead in a botched assassination of Stavros, Quinn wakes up at The Colony, a top-secret island prison where washed-up secret agents work as intelligence officers-for-hire to wealthy nations. Meanwhile, Stavros kidnaps Quinn’s wife and Quinn has no choice but to escape and team up with the wacky Yaz to save his family.
Released in 1997, Double Team is a nonstop stream of absolute nonsense that amounts to silly fun. Directed by the prolific Hong Kong action filmmaker Tsui Hark, Double Team began as a screenplay by ex-Cannon scribe Don Jakoby (Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars, and an uncredited Death Wish 3) simply titled “The Colony,” and mostly centered around the island jail where busted secret agents are collected away. Van Damme loved the story and was attached early, but by the point Dennis Rodman was cast as a nutty arms dealer he was approaching the zenith of his celebrity as bad-boy NBA star. It was probably assumed that Rodman’s acting debut would be as big an international box office draw as Van Damme, and his part was exponentially expanded within the script – to the detriment of whatever sense the story made in its original form.
As released, the colony subplot only occupies a short stretch of the movie and Rodman’s character, who disappears for much of the movie’s first half, is thrust into the position of comedic relief in what all of a sudden becomes a buddy action-comedy. Though the character is an illicit gun dealer and arms inventor, he speaks almost entirely in basketball references. When he and Van Damme test out his experimental new parachute, obviously it inflates around them in the shape of a giant basketball.
Almost everything that happens in Double Team is bonkers, but highlights include Van Damme facing down a bodyguard proficient in wire-fu and who wields switchblades between his toes; Rodman’s character changing his hair color six times over the course of the movie; an underground surveillance team made up of capuchin monks; a bomb planted in a baby doll; and Van Damme disguising himself as Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. The final showdown between JCVD and a shirtless, freakishly jacked Mickey Rourke takes place in the Roman Colosseum, and involves landmines, a tiger, and Dennis Rodman doing tricks on a dirt bike. Oh – and the movie features some hilariously distracting product placement for Coca Cola throughout.
If you’re looking for a good Van Damme movie, Double Team is nowhere close to Bloodsport, Universal Soldier, or Timecop. It doesn’t remotely approach Lionheart, Double Impact, Kickboxer, or Hard Target, either. It’s probably best you don’t even approach it as a Van Damme movie at all – the only splits we get are done in a doorway and are nothing more than a prelude to an obligatory training montage. But, as an entertainingly awful ‘90s actioner which guarantees at least one “WTF?” moment every three minutes, Double Team is going to be worth a viewing to certain audiences.
Mill Creek’s Retro VHS Blu-ray release has a solid picture and sound, but extra features are sadly non-existent. The trade-off is that you can pick it up for under ten bucks, and that’s probably the cut-off price point we’d give Double Team.