A Carrot with Earrings
You had to be there to understand Double Team. Jean-Claude Van Damme’s action stardom withered by the late ‘90s. Blame his starring role in Street Fighter, or maybe the addiction to ‘80s formula.
Then the Chicago Bulls, on an unprecedented NBA reign, including a record winning season. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and… Dennis Rodman. The tall, lanky rebounding fiend stood out (and still does) with flashy multi-colored hair and eccentric behavior. Rodman, then, became a perch for Van Damme’s box office draw. And thus, Double Team.
Beyond the concept of putting Rodman – playing a Belgian weapons dealer with his “store” inside a lewd nightclub – and Van Damme together, Double Team is an absolute oddity. There’s a secret society of failed special agents who sniff out terrorists plots through specialized computers. Double Team predicted the NSA, minus the special agent part.
Cool, if you never left 1997
Cool, if you never left 1997
This is the one wherein Van Damme fights a tiger, landing a roundhouse to its ribs before ending up in a chase through a Roman coliseum. Rodman spouts random basketball or sports puns, the majority of his dialog. Van Damme enters into a shoot-out with villain Mickey Rourke’s goons, set in an outdoor amusement park, strangely crowded given the torrential rain falling. A few rounds of fisticuffs with Chinese martial artists make sense when you consider director Hark Tsui’s native China and filmmaking history.
Most of Double Team looks like an import. Viewing say, Jackie Chan’s output of the same era reveals similar style, from the twisting camera to occasional wire work. That’s fun. Then come American touches: There’s fear of weapon sales to Iraq and some anti-Arabic racial profiling. And Cyber Monks – monks living in a cave, digitally sleuthing, with high-speed internet in the era of dial-up. Cool, if you never left 1997.
Double Team represents Rodman more than Van Damme. It’s weird, outlandish, brash, and does whatever feels right at the time. For instance, for purposes of the story, it’s unclear why Van Damme needs to join this secret underground society, short of showcasing neat tech (from the time) and planning an impossibly elaborate escape from their island base. Rourke only needs to look buff and evil to act as the antagonist. He does. The movie needs explosions; Van Damme leaps away from a bunch of them. Another low-grade success.
If nothing else, consider this: Double Team shows sympathy for North Korea as Van Damme’s character discovers America falsely blamed the totalitarian nation for a plane bombing. And now, Dennis Rodman represents part of North Korea/America international relations. We live in a timeline weirder than one that allowed Double Team to happen.
Sony passes Double Team off to Mill Creek for this Blu-ray debut. This is, with certainty, Sony’s master, and they did not treat this movie with care. It’s a mess.
Dirt and scratches swarm the print at the outset, calming down if always a presence. Resolution looks low enough to pass for DVD, with attempted help from edge enhancement. As usual, that hotfix doesn’t help. Some facial texture jumps out in close, if limited by the age of this presentation.
Grain sticks around, processed slightly as evidenced by smearing. That, or it’s Mill Creek’s encode, which isn’t high on bitrates. Double Team doesn’t look like film. Rather, a jumble of digital noise. Twice, an egregious artifacting error appears in the image for a few seconds, as if the image were scrambled over an illegal cable feed. Quality control matters, but if no one wanted to sit through this to check, that’s understandable.
If there’s a success, that’s color, usually warm in saturation. There’s little outstanding (and it’s likely faded a touch over time), but at least something sticks out. Conjecture: Mill Creek is likely planning a two-pack down the line, and to save time/money, compresses this one down enough to fit on a single disc with another action flick.
A meager DTS-HD 2.0 mix suffers from muffled and scratchy dialog. The sound is as dirty as the video. Explosions stretch the limits of treble. Limited range keeps things lingering in a bland mid-range.
The small split between the two channels spreads a little. A few bits action spread out, and dialog will trek toward a specific speaker. Do note again Double Team came out in 1997 and definitely featured 5.1 audio on release.
Other than snazzy VHS packaging, nothing.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Double Team paired Van Damme and Dennis Rodman. Someone pitched that, and a studio funded it. Now, it’s an even wackier relic.
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