Director: James Yukich
I've seen quite a few movies based on video games, and the ones that are actually good are so few and far between that you'd swear they don't exist at all. The truth is that most of them fall into one of three categories: merely adequate, so bad they're good, and so awful that they only exist to show where the bottom of the barrel is. And there've been quite a few of these "bottom of the barrel" movies, too. Just take a look at Super Mario Bros., Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and the movies directed by Uwe Boll. Also among these awful movies is Double Dragon. Based on the 1987 arcade game distributed by the now-defunct Taito Corporation, Double Dragon can actually say it was the second live-action video game movie ever made. But it can also say it's one of the poorest, grossing just barely over two million dollars during its domestic theatrical run. And let me tell you, this movie sucks pretty hard too.
The movie takes place in the far off year of 2007, where the city formerly known as Los Angeles has become a post-apocalyptic hellhole in the wake of a big earthquake that hit seven years earlier. The city became so riddled with crime that the police were forced to reach a compromise, where the gangs would have free reign over the streets once the sun goes down. Among the city's criminals is Kogo Shuko (Robert Patrick), a would-be crime lord seeking to possess "the Double Dragon," a mysterious medallion said to give immeasurable power to whoever wields it. It was split into two pieces centuries ago, and Shuko has managed to get his hands on piece. All he needs now is the other half...
...which is in the possession of Satori Imuda (Julia Nickson), the mentor and mother figure of karate experts Billy (Scott Wolf) and Jimmy Lee (Mark Dacascos). Billy and Jimmy are supposed to be brothers, but I just don't see it. Anyway, Satori and the Lees run afoul of a particular gang, who sends word back to Shuko that they have the other half of the medallion. Figuring that there's strength in numbers, Shuko unites the gangs and breaks the truce with the police in order to find his quarry. He even tracks down and kills Satori, though Billy and Jimmy manage to get away with their half of the medallion. Left with nowhere to turn, Billy and Jimmy seek help from Marian Delario (Alyssa Milano) and the Power Corps, an urban group dedicated to reclaiming the streets from the gangs. Now with their own backup, Billy and Jimmy decide to take the fight to Shuko and claim the complete medallion for themselves.
I'm not going to bother sugarcoating it: Double Dragon sucks. It's such a terrible movie that it makes me pine for such fare as Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life or Doom. I'd rather watch a random Uwe Boll movie instead of Double Dragon. That's how awful this movie is. It's just so horribly made, from the acting to the writing, right down to the set design and the costumes. It's almost embarrassing to watch. I had to watch Double Dragon two or three times in order to write this review, and I kinda hate myself a little because of that. Do you know how bad a movie has to be in order to inspire feelings like that? It has to be unbelievably bad. The movie is like Street Fighter, but worse. The direction is sub-generic, the effects are weak, the writing is mind-numbing, and the acting is lousy. This whole thing is one big crap sandwich trying to force itself down your throat. And that just isn't cool. You hear me, Double Dragon? That's not cool!
The man at the helm of this sinking ship is James Yukich, a music video director with no prior movie experience. And considering he's only directed one movie since, I guess he decided to stick with music videos. That's a good thing, because his direction here is the worst kind of generic. There is nothing memorable or exciting to mention. Yukich's lack of filmmaking experience is apparent, as he doesn't get any decent cinematography or any decent performances from the cast. If I'd actually seen this movie theatrically, the only think Yukich would have directed would me to the nearest exit. That's how flat and uninspiring his work is. Even the music is bad. Composed by Jay Ferguson, the score is just as unremarkable and forgettable as every other part of the movie. It's like he saw the movie sucked, and decided he just wouldn't bother.
The script is also pretty bad. It's written by Michael Davis and Peter Gould, but the most surprising thing is that Paul Dini gets a "story by" credit. Yeah, the Paul Dini that created the awesome Batman cartoon in the early '90s. It's the same guy. But as to the script, it's dreadful. A trained chimpanzee could have written this movie. It's just one lame joke after another. You get the feeling that the writers were so busy coming up with stupid crap to put in the script that they never got around to putting forth any sort of positive effort. There's just so much garbage in the script that I can't imagine anyone with an IQ over 75 thinking that it would have made a good movie. But let's break this down into specific complaints. First, there's the villain. Kogo Shuko's main goal is not the usual world domination thing. Instead, he just wants to take over one city. One single, solitary city. Really. Either Shuko's aiming really low, or taking over a city is the first step in a grander scheme. Either way, you'd think that a bad guy would aim a little higher, even if wanting to rule the world is a bad guy cliché. And then there's the awful, awful dialogue. You know how the dialogue they gave Michelangelo in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon from the '80s is kinda irritating when you look back on it? Imagine more than one character talking like that. Yeah, it's as bad as it sounds. And then there are the cheap little shout-outs to Who's The Boss? and General Hospital. Just because you've cast people who starred on popular television shows doesn't mean that you should use the names of these shows as jokes. At least the General Hospital one was a bit less on-the-nose.
Last on my list are the actors, and what a motley crew they are. I'm pretty sure there's not a single good performance among them. But I guess I should break this one down, too. Our heroes are played by Scott Wolf and Mark Dacascos, who play their roles as a couple of losers whose combined brain power couldn't turn on a light bulb. I don't know whether to blame the piss-poor writing or the actors themselves, but Wolf and Dacascos just plain suck. Their characters are ineffectual idiots for pretty much the entire movie, and their performances don't exactly improve the quality of the material. As our villain, Robert Patrick is so hammy that there's no way to take him seriously. Patrick obviously realizes that he made a bad decision by agreeing to be in this movie, because you can tell by the way he acts that he just doesn't care. He's so over the top that it almost becomes comedic. And I'm sure Patrick was wondering the same thing I was: How did he end up going from Terminator 2 to Double Dragon? Bringing up the rear is Alyssa Milano, who was in that awkward stage of her career between Who's The Boss? and Charmed. She did an awful lot of crap during that period, and I'm surprised we never heard a story about how she beat her agent to death with a crowbar. Anywya, Milano is at least watchable, in spite of having so much going against her. The script sucks, the wardrobe department made her wear some really goofy costumes, and the hair and makeup department gave her a bleached blonde crew cut. No, seriously. Milano is able to overcome the nonsense for a little while, but it ultimately drags her down into a performance that is mediocre at best.
I will admit that Double Dragon does have something of a goofy charm to it, but that will only get you so far. It doesn't change the fact that the movie is utterly inept. And the odd thing is that, in the pantheon of bad video game movies, Double Dragon has been pretty much forgotten. Everybody always gravitates to Super Mario Bros. or Street Fighter or one of the zillion others out there. But nobody ever mentions Double Dragon. It's almost on the level of one of those movies that a friend of a friend has seen, but you've only heard about. I've actually seen it, and I can tell you that it's a real stinker. It's not so bad that you can't watch the whole thing in one sitting, but it isn't a movie that you'd ever see yourself wanting to watch more than once. So in summation, I'd give Double Dragon one and a half stars on my usual grading scale. But at least it wasn't as bad as Alone in the Dark.
Final Rating: *½