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'Double Team': Nothing but Air

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 4, 1997

With "The Saint" opening this weekend, I must have formula on the brain. So I couldnít help watching "Double Team" with algebraic fascination. What did this action movie, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mickey Rourke and Dennis Rodman, add up to -- especially with Hong Kong director Tsui Hark in the mix? Letís see: Brussels Sprout + Boxing Palooka + Basketball Beanstalk x Arty Asian = < nothing. Yes, thatís less than nothing. But then action movies operate proudly in the artistic minus zone.

Van Damme is Jack Quinn, a counterterrorist, who gets into hot water with a terrorist called Stavros (Rourke) when a botched raid leaves the criminalís wife and child dead. When the widowed Stavros retaliates by kidnaping Quinnís pregnant wife, itís time for Quinn to hook up with a wacky arms merchant called Yaz (Rodman), and rock Stavrosís world.

This movie never hurts for action -- if action means a steady alternation of confrontation and detonation. Tough guys snarl at each other or dive out of the way before some explosion reduces their biceps to gymboy tuna. Van Damme still talks like a Belgian choirboy. But heís physically awesome, of course. He can do things with his body that it hurts to even contemplate. If nature intended for men to do the splits or high kicks, boxer shorts would not have been invented. As for Rourke, I am convinced heís made entirely of leather. He is essentially a boxing glove with a heartbeat.

What can you say about Dennis Color-My-World Rodman, except: Dennis, just be your U.S. Milk Processors/Victoriaís Secret/Oakley sunglasses self. But donít quit your day job. Heís essentially the guest fashion plate. His hair, of course, covers all the known hues in the spectrum. And at one point, heís draped in an orange nylon headdress that suggests a collaboration between Christo and Vivienne Westwood.

The most interesting contribution comes from director Hark, who has made his name in arthouse circles with such films as "Peking Opera Blues," and who manages to insert a little signature artiness into the explosive hyperbole. But heíd better use this project to make something redeemable before they start calling him Tsui Hack.

DOUBLE TEAM (R) ó Contains wall-to-wall violence, minor sexual situations, profanity and several attempts at human conversation.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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