PG-13 Dir: James Yukich | MVD | 1h 36min
Plot: What’s it about?
When I was nine years old, I didn’t have the refined sense of taste that I have slowly acquired over the years. I made some poor decisions as far as entertainment went. I was a vocal fan of Pauly Shore and all of his films. All of them. I also watched any movies that were made based on video games, typically some of the worst film adaptations. There was a brief period of time where the entertainment industry thought that they would have great success adapting the paper thin stories from Nintendo games. The result? Street Fighter: The Movie, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros., and Double Dragon. Out of those four, the best is definitely Mortal Kombat. While no masterpiece, it held true to the video game and delivered a fun experience for fans. It would be a few more years before the studios had success with films like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. What was the video game movie that I watched the most as a kid? Double Dragon. It was the most absurd, the most over the top, and the least expensive to make. My friend Thomas Dillaha and I loved it. MVD Rewind have decided to release this relic of my youth on Blu-ray, so I sat down to watch it with my two young children to see how I would enjoy it all these years later and to pass the torch down to the next generation.
The film begins “Somewhere in China” (this is spelled out on the screen. Unspecified.) A small group of monks are ruthlessly attacked by the beautiful whip-slinging Linda Lash (Kristina Wagner – who was super attractive.) Her goal is to retrieve an ancient medallion that holds supernatural powers for her boss Koga Shuko (Robert Patrick.) One half was in the possession of the monks which she brings back to – New Angeles, 2007 – after the big quake. She gives the amulet to Koga Shugo, who randomly has gelled up white blonde hair and lives on top of the entire decimated wasteland of a city presiding over the gangs that rule the night. Koga Shuko demonstrates that the amulet allows him to morph into a shadow and enter people’s bodies. He needs the other part of the amulet to acquire the full potential of its power. The film cuts to brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee (Scott Wolf and Mark Dakascos) as they engage in a tag team underground fighting match. The silly antics of Billy cost them the match and they leave with their best friend Satori Amada (Julia Nickson) who holds the other half of the necklace. They leave in their trash burning car (lovingly dubbed the Dragon Wagon later in the film) and are attacked by some punks led by idiotic weightlifter Bo Abobo (Nils Allen Stewart.) With their station wagon hurt in an alleyway and nowhere to go, they are rescued by members of the Power Corp in their perfectly camouflaged graffiti jackets. Alyssa Milano plays Marion, the head of Power Corp.
Gangs rule the night and there is a truce with the police in the day and Marion wants to restore peace to her city, especially since her father is the police chief. Soon, Koga Shuga attacks them and Satori is killed. The brothers and Marion work together to retrieve the other half of the medallion and save the city.
This movie is definitely of the so-bad-it’s-good variety. It is not a film that one should watch with even moderate expectations. It is ridiculous and almost flabbergastingly bad. Don’t take this as me hating on the film. I am just trying to get this part of the review out of the way so that nobody will write me a message saying that I thought this movie was Citizen Kane. It is actually so ill-conceived that it ends up working. I was laughing like an idiot all morning while I watched teh film with my kids. You know what? They were laughing too. My three year old was eating it up with a spoon and was temporarily not watching Dora the Explorer. You know what that is called at my house? A vacation. During one point in the film Scott Wolf swings on a rope swing while evading some bad guys. My oldest son said, “wow…that would be fun.” That immediately made me think of the feelings that the movie had given me roughly twenty five years ago.
Whether you are watching a mailman bad guy jump off a roof yelling “Special Delivery! Air mail!” or watching two henchmen answer to this line, “Huey…Lewis…Any news?” there is a certain amount of joy to be had here. There are so many ideas jammed into this movie. Some of the ideas in the film had potential which was hampered by the terribly rewritten dialogue of the film. Some of the ideas are so bad that they just work. In one of my favorite decisions in the film Vanna White, George Hamilton, and Andy Dick play themselves as newscasters reading some truly dumb stories including Madonna’s new marriage to Tom Arnold. It’s an obvious nod to Robocop, and I like it.
The movie does have one thing going for it that some films can’t pull off. The actors in the film obviously give it their very best shot. Scott Wolf and Mark Dakascos do their hardest to elevate the material. Alyssa Milano gave it her best shot and immediately made me develop a crush on her as a kid. Best of all is definitely Robert Patrick. He manages to steal every scene he is in.
Oh – by the way – this movie whitewashes like crazy. If you thought that Ghost in the Shell with Scarlet Johansson was over the line, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Go back to my review from above and read the names of the characters and the actors who played them. It’s an unintentionally hilarious consequence of trying to assign big names to the film and adds to the truly madcap and strange nature of the film.
Basically, I could write a lot more about this movie, but I think you get where I am coming from. This movie was hampered by rewrites and compromises until there was no vision – just an end product that can not fully satisfy anybody. It is a lot of fun to watch with two young kids. I like watching this infinitely more than I like watching Dora.
Video: How’s it look?
MVD Rewind have provided a good-looking transfer of the film using an MPEG-4 AVC codec of a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negatives. The film is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with an MPEG-4 AVC encoding. This film transfer is true to the source, but the source itself was not in perfect shape. The transfer has some specking and occasionally some “cigarette holes” make themselves known in the corner of the film. I feel safe to say that this is a tremendous upgrade over the previous iterations, but people expecting a miracle like the upgrade done to Nemesis may want to temper their expectations slightly. Overall, I think fans (like myself) will be happy to see the film in high definition.
Audio: How’s it sound?
MVD Rewind has provided English Dolby 5.1 surround and English LPCM 2.0 tracks. The 5.1 track sounds pretty good, but as can be expected some of the sound effects have that canned sound that was typical of these types of movies. The LPCM 2.0 track sounds good, but personally I liked the 5.1 track better. This track does a great job of highlighting the really exuberantly cheesy score by Jay Ferguson and Tolga Katas.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- The Making of Double Dragon – in this new documentary piece, producer Don Murphy, writers Michael Davis and Peter Gould, and actors Scott Wolf and Mark Dacadcos are interviewed about their experiences on the film. This is a frequently hilarious and enjoyable piece with some great insights into how this film became the interesting train wreck we all know and love. When Don Murphy points out that the film featured “a lot of fun colors,” I knew that this documentary was a keeper. Michael Davis and Peter Gould steal the show as they basically discuss how the film turned into the disaster that it was. I really loved this piece and would say that it is probably the best piece that MVD Rewind has done thus far.
- Don Murphy: Portrait of a Producer – the producer sits down and explains the reasons why the film was pursued and discusses his career with ties to Bryan Singer and Quentin Tarantino amongst others. A solid feature.
- Behind the Scenes Featurette – archival featurette of behind the scenes footage.
- Making-Of Featurette – archival EPK. Fun stuff.
- ‘The Shadow Falls” Animated Pilot – the first episode of the animated television series that ran from 1993-1994.
- Stills Gallery
- Behind the Scenes Gallery
- Artwork Gallery
- Storyboards Gallery
- Press Photo Gallery
- Two Theatrical Trailers
- VHS Trailer
- Two TV Spots
The Bottom Line
Double Dragon is a hilarious train wreck of a film. It was exciting to watch the film with my kids who seemed to enjoy the idiotic proceedings as much as I did when I was their age. The film is still as ridiculous and poorly conceived as I remembered. This obviously limits the audience for the film. The special features on the disk are incredible – the best that MVD Rewind have produced thus far. I enjoyed revisiting the film and feel like fans of the film will be satisfied by the amount of live and care that went into the package. People unfamiliar with the film will surely want to read reviews and rent the film prior to a purchase. Overall, this is a great collector’s editions of a relic from my childhood that I enjoyed getting to share with my two boys.