Double Dragon (1994)
Double Dragon (1994)

Genre: Martial Arts and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: November 4th, 1994 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: James Yukich Actors: Mark Dacascos, Scott Wolf, Robert Patrick, Alyssa Milano, Kristina Wagner, Julia Nickson, Leon Russom

 


 

T

housands of years ago in ancient China, a benign king created a mystical medallion to save his people from terrorization at the hands of the evil shadow warriors. The artifact (a spiritual amplifier), shaped like a dragon, was eventually split in two – leading to the legend of the Double Dragon. In present day (New Angeles, 2007, after the big quake) Victor Geistman, aka Koga Shuko (Robert Patrick), has his henchwoman, Linda Lash (Kristina Malandro Wagner, who gets punched in the face no less than four times throughout the picture), retrieve half of the magical pendant from Chinese monks. But in order to achieve total domination, Shuko needs its mate – still secreted away in a safe place. “Dark forces know of its existence.”

Meanwhile, teenagers Jimmy Lee (Mark Dacascos, a talented martial artist) and his brother Billy (Scott Wolf, boasting no martial arts expertise), along with legal guardian Satori (Julia Nickson-Soul), leave a karate match, which finds them in a bad neighborhood after dark. Tattooed, pierced, wild-haired, black-leather-clad punks comb the streets, looking for easy targets to rob and attack. This leads to a car chase between the Lee’s armored, flame-spewing station wagon and two gangsters’ tank-like tactical vehicle. Each is equipped with advanced technology that can plot courses throughout the city, as well as identify the drivers and their personal statistics (such as, comically, bench-lifting limits).

These opening sequences resemble “The Warriors” and the Mad Max films, though with an overt tongue-in-cheek flavor (along the lines of “Big Trouble in Little China”). Typically life-and-death encounters incite only cheesy one-liners from the Lees, and a bored, hands-in-pockets pose from Satori. There’s also a “Robocop” vibe, in which commercials and newscasts shed light on sociopolitical elements of this moderately bleak, postapocalyptic future. A citywide curfew, notable climate change (like black rain and toxic pollution), and an unchecked anarchy that runs rampant at night are just a few of the televised commentaries. Plus, Madonna and Tom Arnold’s marriage has ended. And a vigilante gang called the Power Corp (led by the young but rebellious Marian [Alyssa Milano]) picks up where the police are unable to venture, battling for justice when the authorities opt instead to negotiate with known criminals.

Since nothing about “Double Dragon” is taken seriously, there’s a bit of fun to be had with the exaggerated makeup effects, pervasive sarcasm, and kung fu combat – even though they must contend with bad acting, clearly pulled punches, and pitiful CG. Robert Patrick (having recently made quite an impact with his performance in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”) is one of the worst offenders, hamming it up with terrible dialogue, yet he’s enjoying himself with greater regularity than his viewers. At least the large-scale skirmishes are complex and colorful; at one point, there’s even a “Waterworld”-type action sequence, which actually predates that aforementioned big-budget spectacle.

“I’m sorry I had to kick your butt so bad.” As the film nods to countless ’80s, teen-oriented, antiestablishment, revolution-inducing, gang-teeming, action-fantasy thrillers, it struggles to find an identity of its own. At times, it alternates between resembling “Mortal Kombat” (“Double Dragon” is, in fact, based on an arcade game, of which a physical machine makes a brief cameo), “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” John Carpenter’s early works (“Assault on Precinct 13” and “Escape from New York,” chiefly), comic strip adaptations like “The Phantom” and “The Shadow,” superhero movies, and even a live-action cartoon. And Shuko’s underground experimentations on corpses bring up similarities to “The Return of the Living Dead.” In characters, plot, tone, and production design, “Double Dragon” is inconsistent and all over the place. For that, the constant levity certainly doesn’t help.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10

 

 

Special Features on the MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray features both High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition presentations of the main feature, with English 5.1 Stereo, English 2.0 Stereo, and German 2.0 Stereo audio options. There are also English, French and Spanish Subtitles.

The main appeal is a brand new “The Making of Double Dragon” 70-minute documentary, featuring interviews with stars Scott Wolf and Marc Dacascos, writers Peter Gould and Michael Davis, and producer Don Murphy. This feature-length piece is nicely paced and quite hilarious, boasting unusually candid commentary by the filmmakers, who are clearly fond of the memories and the potential that the film offered, but realize its many failures – virtually all of which are mentioned with intermittent sugar-coating.

There’s also a new “Don Murphy: Portrait of a Producer” featurette; archival behind-the-scenes mini-docs; the pilot episode for 1993’s Double Dragon Animated Series, entitled “The Shadow Falls”; a storyboard gallery, press photos, and marketing and other behind-the-scenes photo galleries; original TV Spots; a VHS Home Video Trailer; the original theatrical trailer, and a collectible mini-poster. First printings also come with a slipcover and a reversible sleeve with alternate artwork.