Double Dragon (Film) Review

Double Dragon Film

Double Dragon is an oddity as out of the first bunch of game-to-film adaptations, where I’ve either seen them already or was at least aware of them, this just quietly sat second down on the list, with only a poor critic reception behind it. No big YouTube lampooning, no infamous reputation, it was came and went, and wasn’t very good… boy was it not any good, it was worse than the disappointing NES port I reviewed alongside it! So let’s take a look at Double Dragon the movie, a very early 90s experience!

Synopsis:

In post-apocalyptic California, brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee are highly trained martial artists living in the ravaged city of New Angeles. The pair have been trained by Satori, who took them in after their parents died.

When Satori finds herself pursued by evil overlord Koga Shuko, who’s intent on possessing her mystical dragon medallion, the siblings are charged with protecting it from Shuko and his henchmen…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Double Dragon Film 2

Such great facial reactions are just the tip of the “great acting” iceberg…

Billy Lee (Scott Wolf) – Cocky and arrogant, Billy is often a cause of stress for his older brother Jimmy and their carer Satori, but his heart is often in the right place.

Jimmy Lee (Mark Dacascos) – The older brother of Billy, Jimmy takes life a lot more seriously, especially during martial arts contests…

Marion Delario (Alyssa Milano) – Marion is the leader of the vigilante group known as Power Corps. She hopes to bring an end to the gang-controlled nights of New Angeles instead of letting it happen like the police does.

Koga Shuko (Robert Patrick) – A rather evil businessman who wishes to rule over the city of New Angeles with the power of the Double Dragon amulet. Fair enough, there isn’t much to rule over, really…

Linda Lash (Kristina Wagner) – Lash is a member of Shuko’s inner circle, and is his most trusted subordinate. She uses a whip in what is one of the few proper references to the original game…

Bo Abobo (Nils Allen Stewart / Henry Kingi) – Leader of the Mohawks gang, he is happy to take jobs from Shuko if it means getting paid, but he may regret that down the road…

Chief Delario (Leon Russom) – Chief of the New Angeles police, where they are allowed to rule over the daytime, leaving the gangs to have free reign at night…

Satori Imada (Julia Nickson) – Satori took in Billy and Jimmy Lee after their father was killed by Koga Shuko. She hid the Double Dragon medallions, assuming nobody would ever find them… she was off a bit on that one.

Plus more!

The Good:

Double Dragon Film 4

Sometimes a really over-the-top cheesy villain can make something… somewhat watchable. This is… somewhat the case here.

I enjoyed the rather simple but well realised post-apocalyptic stuff. Shots of ruined skyscrapers, flooded streets, weather forecasters warning people of acid rain, and cars, outfits and gangs straight out of Mad Max (just not as violent because it’s a kids movie…) I don’t really know why the writers went in that direction, but it helped what is otherwise a really good example of a poor early 90s kids film…

Actually I’ll say that I really enjoyed Robert Patrick’s Koga Shuko. He was hamming it up as much as possible, which was a fun distraction for the awfulness that surrounded him…

The Bad:

Double Dragon Film 1

It’s Bo Abobo, apparently. “RAAAARRR!” is what he’s saying, if you’re wondering…

So, I knew going in this would be a kids film, after all at this point gaming was very much only a kids / teens thing anyway, but I didn’t expect it to be THIS bad. Street Fighter was kept light to attract the younger gaming audience (up next!) but it still had some bits in it that were slightly less campy and kid-friendly. This was the worst example of pandering I’ve seen in a long time. Billy and Jimmy constantly looking at the camera and screaming comically before running away, very little to no actual martial arts fighting, replaced with slapstick weapon use and pratfalls.

What really annoyed me was that Koga Shuko, who was a fun cheesy villain, got defeated with barely any actual fighting. I think there was one or two kicks thrown at him, and then Jimmy took over his body using his half of the Double Dragon and acted like an idiot for a laugh, and then Shuko was arrested. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was hoping for more of a climax than that.

Bo Abobo was a super over-the-top cackling dumb villain to begin with, which was fine, then he got mutated into a weird giant blob… thing, who just roared like a giant in a panto before lumbering around a bit. He then farted and turned into a good guy, because… *sigh*… I don’t care. Probably being turned into a monster by Shuko, rather than the farting.

Now the game’s plot is super paper-thin, beat up the gang to get back the captured girl, so I find it a tad unfair to complain about the film having a really basic plot, but I will mention it. It’s the most literal case of “catch the McGuffin” I can think of. Instead of Double Dragon referring to the two protagonists, it’s literally a Double Dragon medallion that has magical powers. Billy and Jimmy have one half, Koga Shuko has the other and wants both to become all-powerful. That’s it! Cue some running around, really awkward dialogue, embarrassing attempts to seem cool to the skateboarding, backwards baseball cap wearing kids of the early 90s (which I was apart of… well, apart from I didn’t skateboard) and turning the kidnapped girl into a leader of a good gang of people who is able to fight herself (ish… sort of…) and that’s the film. I guess I should give them credit for giving the kidnapped girl more of an active role, but… she wasn’t exactly a bad-ass or anything…

Seriously though, even for a film aimed at a young audience, the lead duo are terribly uncharismatic, Marion wasn’t much better, and people like Lash were frankly awful. Some of the weird gang members couldn’t be hamming it up more, which was sometimes funny, but often times cringey. Then there was a completely pointless boat chase than had the river bank randomly explode in a large ball of fire, which looked great on my TV (yes there is a blu-ray of this film out, believe it or not!) but it was clearly just written to have a random explosion in the film and that was it. It served no real purpose at all!

Overall Thoughts:

Double Dragon Film 3

Jimmy and Billy in their special glittery costumes… costumes that don’t even match the game they come from…?

Double Dragon almost felt nostalgic thanks to it being so much like the crap films I used to watch on TV as a kid in the early to mid 90s, but without the actual nostalgia softening the blow of the terrible film (like I’m worried might happen in our next offerings…) It’s well shot and set-dressed, but it’s otherwise full of bad dialogue, poor acting, and so very little plot or even fighting scenes, despite being based on a scrolling beat ‘em up! To be avoided, unless you want to make your own scathing review…

2 Star Watch

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