Jean-Claude van Damme performing two roles in the same movie is an idea so good it could almost write itself … and has about three or four times during the Muscles from Brussels’ career so far. Being real, it took four people (including van Damme) to write 1991’s Double Impact — the first movie with twice the van Damme wham-bam and a recent Blu-ray re-release from MVD Rewind. (It’s not the best, though; that’s Replicant.)
Here, van Damme plays Chad and Alex, twins separated as babies after their parents’ gruesome death who were raised halfway around the world from each other. Chad is a preppy martial artist in L.A. and Alex is a black-market maven in Hong Kong. Initially reuniting through violent headbutting, the siblings decide to close old psychological wounds and open new physiological ones on the evil businessman and ganglord that killed their parents.
Everyone involved here would like you to think van Damme’s against-type turn as Alex inhabits a place of melancholy contemplation: What is it like to inherit an integrity-driven bloodline when you’ve never felt such inclinations yourself? Nah. The dual role is basically van Damme as Zack Morris and A.C. Slater in the same movie, with a few R-rated embellishments for naughtiness.
Director / co-writer Sheldon Lettich (van Damme’s collaborator on Bloodsport and Lionheart) keys into Hong Kong’s sweaty aesthetic and delivers a few slickly commendable John Woo two-gun knockoffs. But as the longest movie from van Damme’s heyday, this thing overstays its welcome by about eight hours — rousted from torpor only in a climactic clash between van Damme and badass emeritus Bolo Yeung (whom you may remember as Chong Li from Bloodsport).
MVD Rewind’s Blu-ray packaging amusingly resembles a VHS-heyday case and even comes with a folded Double Impact mini-poster. A 4:3 full-frame, degraded-video studio credit tag keeps up the ruse … at an unspeakably high volume relative to the feature presentation. As for the movie’s LPCM 2.0 stereo track, it gets the job done without the wider sound field afforded by lossless (or even lossy) 5.1 options — offering necessary oomph without artificial augmentation.
Double Impact‘s new visual transfer is easily the most dazzling it will ever look on the home video market — at least until a 4K remaster that adds a featurette on the film’s fashion. The detail is so vivid, you can practically peer into every pleat on either of the van Dammes’ pants — or the moose knuckle Chad rocks at one point while impressing ladies with the splits.
The only thing more unsightly is the newfound clarity of hilariously terrible doubling effects in scenes van Damme shares with himself. In one moment, Chad rides shotgun to Alex and appears to be floating outside the car. In another where they’re side-by-side, there’s a Super Saiyan-like halo.
Special features include nearly a full-hour of deleted or extended scenes, roughly assembled from time-coded footage; a handful of perfunctory behind-the-scenes featurettes; and Lettich breaking down how the crew put together a mid-movie run-and-gun chase in the Hong Kong harbor.
But let’s talk about the crown jewel of this or, quite frankly, any 2019 Blu-ray release — a perversely fascinating and sometimes profoundly earnest making-of documentary that chronicles the film from its inception as an adaptation of The Corsican Brothers (“It was by some big French writer, but that didn’t matter,” says van Damme) to its release, reception and legacy. Clocking in at nearly 111 minutes and spread across two parts, it’s longer than the movie it chronicles but holds eminently stronger rewatch potential.
By throwing together both humble performers and humongous egos, this talking-head reverie encompasses main players (like Lettich and van Damme) and extremely bit ones — such as two brothers who served as van Damme’s stand-ins … and used their paychecks to fly their parents to Hong Kong for a week as a gift for their lifelong support.
Meanwhile, it’s laden with great anecdotes about permit laws skirted to pursue actual street-level chaos, allegations of the production company reallocating portions of the budget toward sister production Stone Cold (an admittedly superior Brian Bosworth tallboy) under the assumption that film would perform better (it didn’t), and even a moment where van Damme resurrects the Chad-Alex dynamic with some, uh, “fancy” editing in his own home.
Like the David Lee Roth of beef-supreme action stars from the ’80s and ’90s, van Damme rambles ad nauseum about “feathers on the wind,” Spider-Man and lord knows what throughout the documentary. Given the vigor and length with which everyone else compliments van Damme’s grace and kindness, you wonder if he ghost-directed the whole endeavor. (The lone exception: One person’s quick recovery on “Jean-Claude van Damme’s an incredible fighter who does all … most of his stunts.”) The final 20 minutes play like everyone at a wedding delivering a toast to the bride and groom, then toasting all who toasted and heralding the quality of every toast.
Forgivable, though, given the bon mots that bounce through the rest of this supplementary feature. There is a lengthy dissection of the film’s hilariously incongruous fantasy sex scene, a van Damme suggestion along with the villainous henchwoman grabbing his crotch in a fight. The sex scene is a Red Zubaz Diaries sort of thing that Lettich likens to Fellini before alleging it was a favorite scene for Oliver Stone and that Stone watched Double Impact because he considered van Damme for Alexander years ago. Lettich then likens a pejorative line of dialogue to a Winston Churchill quote he read once. Suffice to say his narration, while consistently entertaining, is almost certainly unreliable.
And so it goes: Let people ramble enough and they’ll expose more of their peccadilloes than you could ever predict. The same holds true for van Damme and his own insecurities as a fading star, which peek through the cracks of the closing moments when he laments that … well, there’s simply no room in theaters for what he, or any other action star of his ilk, does these days.
With copious clips as picture-in-picture to the topics under discussion, you could watch this unexpectedly outstanding documentary independent of the main feature and truly, as the end-credits song insists, feel the impact.