Badly in need of more humor and humanity, like that found in his best Hong Kong features, Tsui Hark’s long-awaited big-budget debut “Double Team” is doubly problematic.
Beyond a few sequences with some of the Hark magic and the formidable presence of NBA superstar Dennis Rodman, the Columbia Pictures release is not exactly an airball, but it bounces around the rim and finally fails to go in.
The track record of emergent Hong Kong filmmakers working with Jean-Claude Van Damme and producer Moshe Diamant is anything but inspiring - John Woo’s “Hard Target” and Ringo Lam’s “Maximum Risk” were both tepidly received by fans and failed to generate much heat. The same will happen to “Double Team.”
Hark struggles with the material here, and Van Damme plays another cold, barely articulate hero. There is a halfhearted attempt to personalize the mayhem, with Van Damme’s crack counterterrorist on the verge of retirement and looking forward to quieter days with his wife (Natacha Lindinger).
“Double Team” tips off with a big chase scene as Quinn (Van Damme) drives a “super truck” with stolen plutonium through and over numerous obstacles. Not long after, by the pool with his pregnant mate, Quinn is called upon to vanquish a ruthless international terrorist and is told: “You can’t retire until he dies.”
This perfunctory setup leads to an early showdown with said terrorist Stavros (Mickey Rourke) at an amusement park, after Quinn visits a funky arms dealer played by Rodman. In the elaborate firefight with Stavros, the villain’s wife and child are killed and Quinn is nearly blown to bits. The bad guy lives on and the good guy is sent to the Colony, a think tank/prison for spies who are removed from active service but deemed too dangerous to be left alone in the world.
Unhappy with the turn of events - his wife thinks he’s dead and she’s vulnerable to Stavros’ revenge - Quinn sets out to escape from the Colony. Jokes alluding to basketball and Rodman’s colorful costumes and comic asides are the extent of the film’s stabs at humor.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Double Team” Location: East Sprague, North Division, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls Credits: Directed by Tsui Hark, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, Mickey Rourke, Paul Freeman Running time: 1:33 Rating: R