Saturday, June 20, 2009

Double Dragon

Two movies into my video game movie watching experiment, I was still feeling pretty confident. I'd expected to be subjected to an endless stream of mind-numbingly terrible movies, but so far, they'd been tolerable, sometimes even enjoyable. But as I prepared to do Double Dragon, I started to become aware of a sense of foreboding. The DVD was long out of print, and the only copy I was eventually able to find was in pan-and-scan -- both of which struck me as signs that this movie was a likely contender for the Film Anti-Preservation Society. Would this be the first real obstacle on my journey?

Plot: Thousands of years ago, a Chinese king made a magical medallion that does something cool if you've got both halves of it, but one of the halves was recently stolen by a ninja (or something) who, in a shocking reveal, is really a scrawny blonde chick who's working for Robert Patrick. He wants to get the other half so he can do evil stuff, but it's in the possession of Satori Imada, the legal guardian of Billy and Jimmy Lee, martial artists skilled in the ancient "made you look" and "noogie" techniques.

The movie takes place in "New Angeles" in the distant, post-apocalyptic future (2007), where the streets are overrun by gangs, including the cast of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video and the mutant bikers who crashed Gary and Wyatt's party in Weird Science (they've now recruited Gary into their gang -- but it's not Anthony Michael Hall; it's the guy who played him in the TV series). The gangs are opposed by the Power Corps, a bunch of vigilantes led by the ultimate bad-ass, Alyssa Milano.

Robert Patrick discovers that the Super Lee Bros. have the other half of the medallion, despite Satori's brilliant hiding place (hanging from Billy's neck in plain sight as he walks up to Robert Patrick and says, "What's goin' on? Nice hair, dude."). After a tediously zany action sequence including making a guy lose his footing on gumballs and fall into a baby carriage, the Lees escape from the T-1000's henchmen, but they run into Abobo, the leader of the mutant bikers, whom he's pumped full of super-steroids or something and turned into a giant puffy freak (but he seems pretty happy about it). Also, Robert Patrick blows up Satori, and if we knew or cared about her in any way, that might have meant something.

Robert Patrick goes on to kill some guy from the mutant bikers, which immediately endears him to them and they give him control of their gang. So the bikers, mimes, and Angus Young ambush the Lees. (Note: When I say "bikers," I mean it; they literally ride bicycles.) After a drum solo of a boat chase scene, they eventually escape again.

Let's move this along. The Lees and Alyssa Milano go to Robert Patrick's headquarters and get attacked by a zombie basketball player possessed by Robert Patrick (I forgot to mention, the half of the medallion that he has lets him possess people and turn into a shadow and stuff). Billy and Alyssa escape with the medallion, but Robert Patrick holds Jimmy hostage. Abobo leers at a postcard of a girl in a bikini, then sees his reflection and sheds a single tear.

The mimes attack the Power Corps hideout with Jimmy possessed by Robert Patrick. They fight, blah blah blah, eventually Robert Patrick gets both halves of the medallion and turns himself into two gorilla demon things with swords. Things look bad, but then some stuff happens and the Lees get the medallion and combine their powers to form Captain Planet. Actually, it just gives them red and blue ninja costumes, then Jimmy possesses Robert Patrick and makes him slap himself. And -- apart from a lame gag about letting Abobo drive because it's really Billy possessing Abobo but oops, no, it really is Abobo and he doesn't drive very well -- that's basically the movie.

Observations: There are certain flaws in this movie. I would even go so far as to say that it is not a good movie. I haven't played very much of Double Dragon the game, so I can't really comment on how faithful this is, but there's a point in this movie where Jimmy kicks in an original Double Dragon arcade cabinet, which seems like a pretty good metaphor. (It also raises a lot of questions about why that game would exist in the reality of the movie.)

I can't put my finger on exactly why, but Double Dragon's several big action setpieces -- ostensibly the reason the movie exists, you'd think -- feel very cheap and boring and seem as though they're just padding out the time between story points, except the story is pretty inconsequential too. The big question on my mind after watching it is: why? Why make this movie? Why would Robert Patrick and Alyssa Milano agree to be in it? Why did Paul Dini have a writing credit and why is the writing still so bad? Why the bizarre cameos from Vanna White and Andy Dick? Why the crappy 3D computer graphics at every possible opportunity? It's all very confusing to me.

The movie's one redeeming quality is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Even though I can't think of anything that was actually funny, I just got the sense that the actors were having a good time making it. Maybe that's not true, but if not, they faked it pretty well. I guess maybe it's not a good thing if the filmmakers are enjoying themselves more than the audience, but hey, it was endearing. Also, Alyssa Milano looked pretty hot. So two redeeming qualities, I guess.

Ultimately, though, even Alyssa Milano's ass is not nearly enough to save this movie. It's quite bad, and I can't recommend seeing it for any reason, really. Even on an ironic level it's not particularly amusing. It's probably for the best that this one is left to rot in out-of-print hell.

Quotes:
  • "Eat some fist, butt-heads!" -- one of the Lees
  • "Those guys are gnarly." -- Billy Lee
  • "Hey, broom-head! We're gonna sweep the floor with your skull." -- Billy Lee
  • "Your incompetence sticks needles of flesh in my honor." -- Robert Patrick
  • "You'll never find the dragons." -- Satori, seconds before Robert Patrick finds the dragons


Next time:
Street Fighter
(the live-action one with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia)

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