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‘Double Impact’

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 12, 1991


Sheldon Lettich
Jean-Claude Van Damme;
Geoffrey Lewis;
Alan Scarfe
Under 17 restricted

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With apologies to Cole Porter, it's obvious that Jean-Claude Van Damme gets a kick out of himself. That's literally true in "Double Impact," in which the likable Belgian lug plays twins separated as babies when their parents are murdered by members of a Hong Kong criminal cartel. Twenty-five years later, they're reunited by the family's apparently inept bodyguard (Geoffrey Lewis) and wreak some major revenge on said cartel, and a little on themselves along the way.

The single-actor-as-twins is a venerable film cliche, but it's as dependent on a producer's budget as an actor's skill. While "Double Impact" clearly benefits from its exotic location, the "double" scenes are not particularly well developed, wavering between the amusing artifice and the ludicrous bumble.

As for Van Damme, he's his usual genial muscle-bound self, having great fun playing the somewhat nerdy do-gooder Chad, a California aerobics instructor who just happens to know martial arts, and Alex, a hard-headed, cigar-chomping smuggler and mah-jongg parlor owner who apparently never left Hong Kong after being deposited in a nun-run orphanage.

The twins are as different in their personalities as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito were physically in "Twins," and from their wardrobes it's apparent one subscribes to GQ and the other to Soldier of Fortune. Still, both Van Dammes show a remarkable facility for flying kicks, fist tattoos and, somewhat oddly for a martial arts film, simply shooting bad guys. Call it twin pique, and excuse the chief bad guy when he finally figures out why he's seeing double: By then, he's just a little punch-drunk.

Van Damme is clearly no Jeremy Irons, but then Irons probably couldn't bust heads with such panache. And unlike most of his competitors, Van Damme has a healthy interest in women. In this case, it's Alonna Shaw as the object of Alex's love and Chad's affection, which leads to Alex's deliriously erotic fantasy, which in turn leads to acute sibling rivalry in the form of Van Damme vs. Van Damme (which would have been more fun had the filmmakers bothered to light the fight).

Still, the Van Dammes' biggest battles are with leather-prone Cory Everson, a sure candidate for Catwoman should Michelle Pfeiffer get pregnant, and veteran film assassin Bolo Yeung, alive again after a Van Damme dispatch in "Bloodsport." Yeung is a wonderful villain, totally over-the-top, but it's hard to watch him without thinking of an Oriental Garry Shandling, particularly since Shandling would probably get better punch lines.

"Double Impact" may not be the breakthrough film Van Damme is looking for, but he's managed not to sink into the script pits frequented by Chuck Norris. The story is silly but entertaining, the fisti/footsycuffs are generally exciting and the laughs are common. Summer fare, basically.

"Double Impact" is rated R and contains violence, profanity and some nudity.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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