Double Dragon

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Looming out of the gloom like that character tower you have to ascend while playing Mortal Kombat is the ascending list of all time awful video game adaptations. Now, just to be clear, I’m not referring to the stunning, direct to video dreck of Uwe Boll’s bargin basement output – no, they’re in a level of hell entirely on their own – I’m talking about the obnoxiously gaudy, theatrical releases of the 90’s and usually jostling for position at the top spots are legendary offenders Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter. However, holding steady in third place is an adaption cut from the same cloth as those two titans of terrible; a movie equally filled with massively questionable filmmaking decisions, baffling plot twists and a villainous turn by a respected actor slumming to pay the bills…
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to double down on Double Dragon.

Brothers Jimmy and Billy Lee are two young martial artists trying to win fighting tournaments in the earthquake ravaged New Angeles in the “future” year of 2007. While the days are fine, I guess (aside from choking smog and the fact that Andy Dick is your weather man), but when the night falls, the police withdraw from the streets entirely to let the hordes of maniacal gangs take over – think Bill & Ted meet The Purge.
Over this world looms impressively pompadoured evil billionaire Koga Shugo (not his real name), who has set his sights on obtaining the two halves of a mystical medallion called the Double Dragon that endows it’s wearer with the powers of body and soul in order to rule the city and after obtaining one half he naturally sets his sights on the other. While we ponder why exactly a billionaire would feel he needs a magical necklace to control a city, we find that the other half of the necklace in in the possession of the Lee Brother’s guardian, Satori and after Koga uses the funky new powers he’s obtained to try and complete the necklace and in turn, kills Satori in a gas explosion. Alone on the streets, Billy and Jimmy take shelter with the group of vigilantes call The Power Corps, an underground resistance movement run by the jean shorts sporting Marion Delario who has gathered all the young orphans of the city together to stop the gangs… somehow.
As Shugo unleashes his sizable band of henchmen to convince the gang to break the truce and rampage during the day in order to smoke the Lee’s out, can the bickering brothers finally work as a team long enough to save the city (which seems a little redundant considering it’s apparently been a toxic shithole for years) and reconnect the Double Dragon?

There’s something inherently fascinating about watching a cinematic car crash from the nineties just like Double Dragon. Hideously dated fashions and phrases aside, any film that’s trying to balance the innocence of youth with something as blandly violent as a side-scrolling beat-em-up was always going to be awkward ever since angry parents complained about all the ninja fuckery contained in 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie – but compared to the blatant softening of all the repeated face kicking these movies seemed to have enforced upon them, Double Dragon’s punch-happy goofyness makes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret Of The Ooze look like the fucking Raid.
Anyone old enough to have played the original game back in the day must have thought they’d had a stroke when trying to follow the vastly expanded story in the film as a simple tale of two brothers fighting a horde of similar looking gang members in order to save the kidnapped woman they both love is mutated into two brothers fighting a horde of gang members who look like they’ve wandered in off the set of a Troma film so a bleach blonde evil billionaire can rule a city with some magic bling.
In an effort to be “cool“, “radical” and totally down with the kids, the whole thing looks like a bomb has gone off on the set of Spy Kids and the two leads (Party Of Five’s Scott Wolf paired with depressingly underrated martial arts wonder Mark Decascos) give performances that have all the subtlety and poise of two Saturday morning kid’s show hosts that contain so much breathless surfer talk, you truly expect them to hyperventilate and collapse any minute.
The film’s visual style (alongside many worryingly prevalent jokes about citizens happily getting along with living in an environmentally ravaged toilet) is a fever dream, starting with Robert Patrick’s villain who apparently shares a barber with Vanilla Ice and deals with the fact he’s been cast in a massive turds by milking every line as much as he can by screaming things like “I just want domination over one major American city! Is that too much to ask for?” while wearing shades indoors. There’s a couple of sweet nods to the original video game like a female henchman with a whip, the odd character name and, oh, the actual arcade game itself featuring in the movie – which is tantamount to Batman reading a comic about himself – but then there’s weird shit for weird shit’s sake like mountainous gang leader Bo Abobo getting pumped full of super steroids and emerging looking like a massive, sweaty hemorrhoid…
A massive, candy coloured mess that’s disturbingly intriguing to experience in a car crash/obnoxious time capsule sort of way that contains endless hip hop beats, a starring role for an impossibly cute Alyssa Milano and her vacuum-sealed-tight tank top (yes, there’s a hideously dated reference to Who’s The Boss and at one point the boys straight up ogle her ass as she crawls through an air vent) and the horrible, fixed expression on Mark Decascos’ face as realisation slowly sets in that this might not be the big break he was hoping for…

As unstoppably awful as only a 90’s video game movie can be, there’s something weirdly endearing about watching it in an environment made safe by thirty years of distance just to try and get a incredulous brain high on the ‘roided up levels of cringe these kinds of film pumps out. However, even though this titan of trash pales before certain other video game movies released at the same time, the tale of the Brothers Lee is still an impressive descent into shameless, 90’s wank.
Double the Dragon, none of the fun…

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