D is for… Double Impact
I wasn’t sure where to go with my next “D” movie, and it was suggested I do Double Impact. The suggestion was then followed by a laugh, so I knew it would be one of “those” sorts of action movies, more along the line of On Deadly Ground or Commando than Die Hard or Killer Elite. I enjoy Van Damme, so of course I was in.
If only I’d know what I was in for…
I kid, I kid–Double Impact, directed by Sheldon Lettich, is a lot of fun, and fits almost all of the action movie criteria as outlined in this site. Van Damme does a great job playing twins Chad and Alex Wagner, and Geoffrey Lewis does a good job as Frank Avery, Chad’s guardian and the twins’ sidekick. Also notable is that in addition to Alex’s girlfriend Danielle (Alonna Shaw), there is another female character with lines and a name, Kara, played by Corinna Everson. A lot of these movies have only one woman, often the damsel in distress.
Double Impact opens with the conclusion of a civil engineering project between Paul Wagner (Andy Armstrong) and Nigel Griffith (Alan Scarfe), specifically opening the Victoria Harbour Tunnel between Hong Kong and mainland China. Wagner has his wife Katherine (Sarah-Jane Varley) along with their twin sons, Chad and Alex, and sends his bodyguard, Frank, home for the evening. However, Griffith betrays the Wagners and has them killed by the Triads, led by Moon (Bolo Yeung) and run by Raymond Zhang (Philip Chan). Frank is able to rescue one twin, Chad, while the twins’ nurse (Wu Fong Lung) rescues Alex and drops him off at an orphanage.
Twenty-five years later Alex’s whereabouts are discovered by Frank, and he whisks Chad off to Hong Kong to reunite the brothers. Understandably they don’t like each other much at first, but eventually they grudgingly work together in order to protect their birthright by exposing Zhang and Griffith. Danielle works for Griffith and is spying on him, so she is their man on the inside, so to speak.
Frank, Chad, and Alex hole up in a derelict hotel on an island, which seems like a difficult place from which to launch an attack, but it seems to work, more or less.
Zhang and the Triads try to convince Alex, a smuggler, to join Zhang’s crew, but they don’t realize they’re talking to Chad at the time. Rather than accept the job, Chad tells Alex and Frank about the drop Zhang told him about, and they blow up the factory that appeared to be making drugs. They also infiltrate and blow up a nightclub where Zhang and Griffith are doing business.
Kara, one of Zhang’s/Griffith’s henchmen, lets on that she knows Danielle is up to something, and wears a wire, which has Danielle calling Alex to tell him that her cover is blown. She reaches Chad, who hustles to the mainland to save her. Kara and some other henchmen chase them and follow them via helicopter, and she realizes they must be staying at the hotel. They come back the next morning and abduct Frank and Danielle in order to draw out Chad and Alex.
The plan works, and Alex and Chad follow them to a ship, where Frank and Danielle are held hostage in the boiler room. Chad and Alex fight and shoot their way down to them, killing the henchmen and Moon in the process (and stabbing Kara, but there’s no way she could be dead, if movies have taught us anything about realistic consequences of a small knife wound to the side). They rescue Frank and Danielle, and go after Zhang and Griffith. The film of course ends on a high note, with the twins emerging successful, though how countless murders mean they can get their family fortune back is unclear.
But navigating Chinese homicide and estate law is a topic for another time.
Let’s move on to the criteria!
A is for… Accents
The Wagner parents and Griffith are British.
Chad’s Van Damme accent is explained by Chad having been raised in France.
Alex has a less pronounced version of Van Damme’s accent, sort of, but if he grew up in Hong Kong, wouldn’t he have more of a Hong Kong accent? It’s doubtful English would have been his first language.
Zhang and Moon of course have Chinese accents.
Danielle is…maybe a different region of Britain? It was different from other more common British accents used in films.
B is for… Bad Guys
Griffith worked with the Wagners, and had them murdered when he no longer needed Wagner’s expertise on the tunnel project. He was an equity partner and secured the loan from Zhang’s family. His company is Transworld Exports.
Zhang is a crime lord hired to take out the Wagners. He seems very professional, and always wears a suit except for when his men are infiltrating the hotel, when he wears a camouflage shirt.
Moon is Zhang’s lead henchman. He’s initially seen in awkwardly-fitting suits, but the suits were covering up his massive upper body. His face is scarred during the opening gunfight with Paul Wagner and Frank, so he must stand out among other Triad members.
C is for… Chases
When Alex, his partner, and Frank and Chad are smuggling the two Mercedes, the police discover them, resulting in a relatively slow and drama-less chase on boats through the harbor.
Kara and the other henchmen chase Danielle and Chad on foot through the streets once Danielle’s cover is blown, and they end up climbing from boat to boat.
The ultimate climax of the film (for there are two, it seems, one with the deaths of Moon and Kara, and the other with the deaths of Zhang and Griffith) takes place in a shipyard, with Alex and Chad chasing Griffith and Zhang through the maze of cargo crates.
D is for… Damsels
Danielle is Alex’s girlfriend, who works for Griffith and has been trying to spy on him, though not very successfully, it seems, until now. She’s bottle blonde and beautiful, and Alex adores her to the point of irate drunkenness when she spends time with Chad.
Kara is one of Zhang’s henchmen, and for some reason she dresses like a dominatrix and sexually harrasses Danielle. She’s super tall and is a good fighter.
E is for… Explosions
After Chad tosses the two Mercedes overboard, Frank shoots the gas tanks to make them explode, letting the boat get far enough away from the police.
Alex, Chad, and Frank blow up Zhang’s factory using C-4.
At the Climax Club, Alex and Chad plant crates labeled as “cognac” that are actually bombs.
The flammable drums on the ship during the climax catch fire and explode.
F is for… Flashbacks
No flashbacks, though the probably would have helped explain Alex’s life a little better.
G is for… Guns
For details check out the IMFDB.
When the Wagners get back to their house after the tunnel is opened, they are met with guns. In the resulting shootout, the Wagner parents are killed and Moon is injured.
While smuggling the cars, Alex et al are forced into a shootout with the police.
Alex, Frank, and Chad have quite the arsenal in the derelict hotel.
Before blowing up Zhang’s factory, there is of course a shootout, during which Alex fires two handguns while rolling on the floor, and Frank has a gigantic telescope on his rifle.
At the Climax Club, the fish tank gets shot out.
When storming the hotel, Zhang’s men fire gas grenades through the windows. They then engage in a shootout with Chad and Alex whenever they find one of them.
There are of course various shootouts on the ship during the climax.
H is for… Helicopters
Zhang has one, or maybe it’s Griffith’s. They use it to hunt Chad and Danielle, then transport Zhang to the hotel.
I is for… Improvisation
Chad realizes that their boat is too slow because of the heavy cars on it, so he sends them into the water to make the boat lighter so it moves fast enough that they can get away from the cops.
Chad throws a gun to a thug so the thug reflexively catches it, allowing Chad to fight him.
Moon uses barrels on the ship like he’s Donkey Kong and Chad is Mario.
Zhang uses the fire extinguisher on Alex.
Alex uses huge gears on the crane to crush Zhang’s arm.
J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects
The long-haired henchman is kicked through a glass window.
K is for… Kill Count
Moon kills his own thug when the thug fails to injure Chad (whom everyone thinks is Alex at that point).
This is one of those films where it’s hard to really count the kills because there’s so many and because it’s unclear most of the time what’s a “kill” versus a “knock out.” Alex and Chad do kill the two guards on the ship when they first get there.
L is for… Limitations
Alex and Chad clearly have a difficult time working together, but anyone would if he or she suddenly learned they had a twin and had to infiltrate the Hong Kong underworld in order to claim their birthright.
It’s unclear what resources are available to Alex, Frank, and Chad. They obviously have a lot of weapons, including guns and C-4, but they are staying in a secluded, rundown hotel on an island. They have a boat and a cellular phone, but don’t seem to have anyone to turn to except the guy who runs the club Alex frequents.
There don’t seem to be any language barriers, but I don’t recall if Alex speaks Chinese in the film at all, even though it should be his first language. (then again, the little kids at the orphanage are singing “Frère Jacques,” so who knows.
M is for… Motivation
Zhang and Griffith killed the Wagners for the money. It seems that Zhang and Griffith didn’t even know that Alex, whom they seem to know, was one of the twins, though why would they? Once they realize there are two Alexes and thus one of them must be Chad, they want to kill him to get them out of the way and stop any further attacks.
Alex and Chad are prodded by Frank to take back what’s theirs. They want to collect the dividends earned on their father’s blood.
N is for… Negotiation
Zhang wants Alex to work for him and gives him time to think about it (though he’s talking to Chad at the time).
When it’s clear during the climax that Alex is going to kill Zhang, Zhang offers him half of everything to join him.
O is for… One Liners
Chad, during the goods exchange interrupted by the police: I almost got killed! …And by the way the cops are still chasing us.
Chad, at the derelict hotel: Can you show me one spot on the floor without bird shit on it?
Alex: Oh, sorry, we forgot to call the maid.
Chad, proud of his brother: I love Alex!
Alex, thinking Chad is sleeping with Danielle: I’m gonna kill him!
Alex: Now I’m drunk. Tomorrow I’ll be sober. But he’ll always be a faggot. (the line is funny because Alex is upset that he thinks Chad is sleeping with Danielle, which wouldn’t happen if Chad were gay.)
P is for… Profession
Chad is a fitness/aerobics/karate instructor in Frank’s business, and is perhaps a partner as well.
Alex is a smuggler and criminal in the Hong Kong underworld.
Q is for… Quagmire
Zhang and Moon abduct Frank and Danielle, and at that point the twins are not only fighting the thugs alone, they want nothing to do with each other. They must learn to set their differences aside in order to rescue their friends.
R is for… Reality, or the Suspension of Disbelief
There aren’t any unbelieveable stunts. However, it’s hard to imagine that Chad, a fitness instructor in Los Angeles, becomes a killer in a couple of days. It’s even harder to comprehend the plan: let’s kill everyone so we can claim our birthright! I know nothing about Hong Kong law, but I have to assume that if two guys come to me claiming to be lost twins owed money from twenty-five years ago, and that they can prove it because they killed a couple dozen people and caused some property damage, I’m more inclined to throw them in jail than have a sit-down about how to get them their money. It’s unclear how much evidence they have about anything at all, and certainly killing everyone involved can’t help.
S is for… Sidekicks
Frank Avery was the Wagners’ bodyguard, and when they were killed he raised Chad as if he were his nephew. He’s the one who finds Alex and brings Chad to Hong Kong, and provides necessary sniping and fighting.
Danielle is Alex’s girlfriend, and works for Griffith. She does eventually find information linking Griffith to the Wagners, but not before she raises too much suspicion. After that she gets abducted.
T is for… Technology
Alex uses a gigantic cellular phone, the kind that looks more like a radio than a phone.
Kara wears a wire when she tries to get Danielle to confess to espionage.
U is for… Unexpected Romance
There’s never any romance when the main character already has a woman, but Alex’s utterly irrational jealousy and fear has to be pointed out. Danielle never shows any interest in Chad once she understands that he’s not Alex, and Chad doesn’t seem like the type of guy to steal his brother’s girl. But rather than have faith in his lover and brother, Alex gets himself worked up into a jealous, violent fit by assuming Chad sleeps with Danielle. It’s ridiculous.
Unless, of course, the writers were trying to manufacture a way to have Chad and Alex fight, ensuring the audience got a Van Damme vs Van Damme fight that may have been promised in a trailer.
V is for… Vehicles as Weapons
There really aren’t too many vehicles in the film other than Alex’s boat.
W is for… Winning
Zhang abducts Danielle and Frank, and takes them to his ship. Once they follow them to the ship, Chad and Alex work their way through several henchmen while trying to reach the boiler room, until Chad electrocutes Moon by knocking him into an electrical box and Alex stabs Kara while she’s trying to strangle him.
Zhang and Griffith flee to the docks, but Alex and Chad chase them down until Alex lets Zhang fall from a crane, and Chad crushes Griffith with a shipping container.
Cue the camera freeze-framing on Chad giving the “okay” symbol.
X is for… X-rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor
No one really gets severely injured here, beyond some bumps, scrapes, and cuts.
Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem
Obviously if Zhang’s hit on the Wagners had been completely successful, the twins wouldn’t have survived to come back. They wouldn’t have survived if Frank hadn’t chased after the Wagners once Paul knew they were being followed–had Zhang’s men not tried to copy Frank’s car to blend in, Paul wouldn’t have noticed because he’d told Frank to go home. It was seeing the identical car that piqued his suspicion.
During the shootout, Frank saw Griffith with Zhang. Why didn’t he go to the police then? Instead he abducted a baby and sat around for twenty-five years, letting the case get colder and colder, and giving Griffith more time to conceal the evidence?
Z is for… Zone, in the
Chad and Alex didn’t really seem to be in any sort of zone at all. Chad by his nature wouldn’t be, because he’s out of his element entirely. Alex is obviously comfortable with fighting and guns, but he’s never really shown to be making the plans, thinking through strategies, or executing flawlessly.
In Summation and Final Thoughts
Double Impact has a lot going for it, including a lot of action scenes, good casting with Geoffrey Lewis, Alonna Shaw, and Bolo Yeung, and of course the always enjoyable Van Damme. However, it suffers from an illogical plot. It’s easy to buy the twins-reunite-in-a-revenge-story plot, but unless their goal is to simple kill the people responsible for their parents’ deaths, they aren’t going to get anything for their efforts.
If the film takes place in roughly 1991, its release date, then the opening scene takes place in 1966, which explains why those infants are riding around in the backseat of the car with I don’t even think a seatbelt on them, let alone a proper child seat. It’s horribly jarring.
Paul Wagner realizes they’re being followed, so he just goes home? If they’re following him, they might know where he lives and have other people lying in wait.
The fake blood used during that opening shootout is a little too red and fake-looking.
Alex was dropped off at an orphanage, with no visible name tag or anything, yet he still grows up with the name “Alex.”
Van Damme’s characters are said to be only twenty-five years old. Even though Van Damme was only roughly 30 at the time of the production, he still didn’t look 25.
The introduction to the adult Chad prominently features a way too long take of his backside. We get it, he’s in great shape and can do splits.
The other karate instructor has a fantastic ‘80s mullet.
Chad takes the news of Frank not being his actual uncle quite well. “I’m not your uncle, even though that’s what I’ve been telling you your whole life.” “Okay.”
Those pink shorts Chad wears in Hong Kong… Clearly he’s wearing them so everyone can make fun of them, and deservedly. They aren’t even flattering. Combined with the shirt/tie combo he’s wearing during the Mercedes smuggling scene… Yikes. The ‘80s attack.
Van Damme and the wardrobe people did a great job of separating Chad and Alex, from the way they dress to their hair, to the way the twins carry themselves and the way Alex is always sucking on cigars. If I were just flipping through channels and not really paying attention, I might not have realized both roles were Van Damme.
Surprising for a movie or show about identical twins, they never do an intentional identity switching gambit. Instead, Chad is merely mistaken for Alex, and at the climax club they just make sure to dress alike and have only one of them visible at at time.
Speaking of cigars, between Zhang and Alex, there are a lot of cigars in this film. It’s very distracting, especially when Alex is speaking while holding one in his mouth. It’s not necessary.
I’d noticed during the scene where Zhang thinks Chad is Alex that Moon was wearing an oddly ill fitting suit, but it became apparent why when he strips down during the climax to display his huge upper body.
The film has one of those weird ‘80s action movie keyboard-heavy scores.
I’m not sure what to make of the lesbian scene where Kara hits on Danielle. Is she merely trying to make her uncomfortable because she suspects she’s spying? Or is she really interested in her? Is the scene simply fanservice?
Chad and Danielle hide out in the club Alex frequents, and constantly look out from the hidden room into the main bar through a fishtank. …it’s a fishtank, not two-way glass–eventually someone will see them if they keep standing there!
Danielle asks what proof they have that Griffith is corrupt, and Frank says they don’t need proof because he was there. Um… Yes, Frank, you do need proof. You get nothing without proof on a 25-year-old crime, especially when you eventually kill everyone involved.
Both Van Damme and Yeung eventually get shirtless, so there’s fanservice in the other direction.
The climax taking place on a ship and in the shipyard is sadly reminiscent of Wake of Death, a Van Damme venture that was not as entertaining as this one.
The film would probably be a minute or two shorter except there are many slow motion shots during the fighting. Kicks alone accounted for 16 slow motion shots.
The end credits credit the actors as portraying thugs, smugglers, and guards–not a lot of the characters have real names.
The end credit music–“Feel the impaaaaact,” by Gen. Classic.