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Double Team (1997, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman)

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The CIA’s top anti-terrorist agent, Jack Quinn (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is brought out of retirement for one last job – to catch international villain Stavros (Mickey Rourke). But the mission is a disaster. Quinn kills Stavros’s infant son by mistake, and the terrorist escapes, wiping out Quinn’s entire unit in the process.

Quinn is sent to The Colony, an off-shore think tank and prison for spies too dangerous to roam the world, but too valuable to be killed. He seems consigned to a life of inactive captivity. But then word reaches him that Stavros has kidnapped his pregnant wife, Kath (Natacha Lindinger) and he effects a daring underwater escape. Only one man can help him track down his nemesis – zany arms-dealer Yaz (played by flamboyant basketball star Dennis Rodman, who, commented The Observer, ‘steals every scene’).

Together, the high-kicking duo fight their way through Europe in search of Kath, eventually catching up with her in Rome, where Quinn and Stavros face off in a furious gladiatorial finale in the Coliseum, land-mined for the occasion, and with a man-eating tiger thrown into the arena for good measure.

As a Van Damme film, one might expect Double Team to be trashy. But it’s ‘distinguished trash’ according to the Independent on Sunday, which ‘was mesmerised’ by the movie. The film is fit to bust with its ‘breakneck pace… plentiful stunts… and manic visual inventions,’ Sight and Sound commented. These come courtesy of Tsui Hark, the third Hong Kong director to gain access to Hollywood via Van Damme (following the actor’s collaborations with John Woo and Ringo Lam).

Vietnamese-born Hark, whose credits include Once Upon a Time in China and A Chinese Ghost Story, enriches the slight tale with what The Daily Telegraph called, ‘relentless kick-fighting and gargantuan conflagrations,’ and the high-tech trickery of the best pop promos. With fight sequences choreographed by Fat Man, Samo Hung, and added brawn from cruiser-weight World Thai Boxing Champion Rob Diem, as exiled terrorist Staal, the film’s action always captivates, and is occasionally breathtaking in its audacity and skilful brutality. Not exactly a subtle film then, but as described by The Sunday Telegraph, ‘Of its type – sublime.’

production details
USA | 93 minutes | 1997

Director: Tsui Hark
Script: Don Jakoby Paul Mones

cast
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Jack Quinn
Dennis Rodman as Yaz
Mickey Rourke as Stavros
Paul Freeman as Goldsmythe
Valéria Cavalli as
Bruno Bilotta as Kofi
Mario Opinato as James
Ottaviano Dell’Acqua as Mossad Agent
Angelo Ragusa as Stavros Goon
Ted Rusoff as Brother Ramulu
Umberto Raho as Brother Regulo
Orso Maria Guerrini as Colony Resident

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