Jean-Claude Van Damme: Double Impact (1991) Review

Van Damme. Times Two. They`re damn quick. Damn cool. Damn hot.
Double the fun. And Double…. The Van Damage!

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With the above stated words, audiences in 1991 were introduced to Double Impact, one of my personal favorite, if not my very favorite, Jean-Claude Van Damme film. Just fresh from the success of Bloodsport (1988), Kickboxer (1989), Lionheart (1990) and Death Warrant (1990) Double Impact was the next smash hit Van Damme had at the box office, making him a household name in the early 1990s. With split screen effects Van Damme is able to portray two roles; the role of twin brothers Chad and Alex. With this, the film delivers what is nowadays, at its 25th anniversary, mostly seen as a true guilty pleasure.

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As he portrays twin brothers that were separated when a baby, Van Damme is able to bring two different characters to life. Even though Van Damme isn`t known for his acting abilities, I always found that it really feels like watching two totally different guys. Van Damme therefore does a fine job portraying Chad, a slick California boy who teaches karate classes (and stretching to the ladies: “I can do the splits, nooo problem”, gotta love that moment), and Alex, a cigar smoking bad ass who grew up on the tough streets of Hong Kong. It is a lot of fun and charming to see Van Damme interact with himself, and even though split screen technology was still limited at the time, it is well executed. Director Sheldon Lettich (for an interview with Lettich, click here) had previously worked with Van Damme when he wrote and directed Lionheart and also wrote the screenplay for Bloodsport a few years earlier. He is therefore no stranger to Van Damme and with this film captured the actor in his prime.

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Next to Van Damme is the late Geoffrey Lewis, who portrays Frankie, the former bodyguard of Chad and Alex`s parents and the guardian of Chad. Double Impact is one of his most well-known works of his long career in film. Frankie is the father figure in the story and a good hearted man that brings the two brothers together. He definitely is a welcoming part of the film as he, even though the plot revolves around Van Damme, knows how to let his character add to the fun. The sexy Alonna Shaw portrays Danielle, Alex`s girlfriend and the one to discover Chad`s black silk underwear (wink wink). She didn`t do much after Double Impact, which is a shame, cause she sure is one of the most beautiful ladies Van Damme has had beside him on the silver screen. 

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The bad guy department is reserved for a familiar face in Van Damme`s filmography: Bolo Yeung, who also played Van Damme`s nemisis in Bloodsport and is mostly known for facing Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon (1973). With his impressive physique Yeung is always an intimidating presence and proves an evil adversary for Jean-Claude once again. In all honesty, the final confrontation between the two could have been better (just leave them barrels alone Bolo! Your fists are enough). But nevertheless: scar on the face and all, he is a pure menacing force to reckon with. The main baddie spot is reserved for Alan Scarfe, who isn`t a very memorable villain but his English accent makes him sound evil enough when delivering his lines. More memorable is Corinna Everson, a female bodybuildster,who portrays a delicious villainess you will only find in a movie like this. But it doesn`t end there: Philip Chan portrays Raymond Zhang, a Hong Kong underground figure that has some unfinished business with Alex. Add all the disposable henchmen to this list as well and you have enough bad guys for JCVD to punch around. And you can never have enough of those, of course.  

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Ok,  lets get to the action, probably one of the biggest reasons people watch Van Damme films. Even though some fights feel like they could have had more to give as previously mentioned, Van Damme has enough moments to show off his famous kicks and splits. Hell, he even brawls with himself. Gunfights, explosions, hand to hand combat; Double Impact has it all. Set in 90s Hong Kong, the film has a true late 80s/early 90s vibe, and showcases this in a cocktail of true action movie pleasure. So the fights might not make it to the level of say Bloodsport, they do pack a punch indeed.

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Sure, it`s cheesy as hell and for most people it`s the pure definition of what a B-movie stands for, but oh boy it sure is enjoyable. Naturally a must see if you like Van Damme but also for Martial Arts enthusiasts this movie is an enjoyable ride. I came to love this film more and more with each viewing and it has become a personal favorite of mine. If the movie is any good depends on your level of B-movie tollerance, but for me this remains an A-lister for sure. I mean, Double the Van Damage! With Jean-Claude Van Damme at his peak in the world of 90s action movie cinema, what more can one ask for?