Double Dragon (1994) — One seriously goofy apocalypse

“My whole life just flashed before my eyes! Dude, I sleep a lot.”

Justin’s rating: 2/5 credits needed

Justin’s review: I have no idea if you’re familiar with the Double Dragon video games or not, so just trust me when I say that they weren’t exactly brimming with narrative. It was two brothers who kicked and punched their way from left to right, and that’s pretty much it. So you have to imagine that when film execs took a stab at adapting this into a movie, they could’ve done pretty much anything with it. The most obvious path would’ve been to create a modern-day martial arts flick with some nice set pieces and call it a day.

The Double Dragon movie we got, however, said, “Forget THAT!” and went down a really weird path instead. For starters, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic future of 2007 where a major earthquake, rising sea levels, acid rain, and (according to a weatherman’s map) nuclear fallout has transformed Los Angeles into an island city of New Angeles. With thematic gangs roaming the streets at night, high-tech cars, fight clubs, Andy Dick, mandatory curfews, and a near lack of guns, it’s very much an urban Mad Max.

I seriously give this film props for investing deeply into this world, because they don’t just pay it lip service with a single throwaway reference and one flaming trash barrel. Every scene in this movie is informed by this bizarre setting, and you can tell that a whole lot of thought went into making it. For example, during one high-speed boat chase, the jet skis zip around and through highway underpasses that are now clearly underwater. From Demolition Man to Judge Dredd, I’ve seen a whole lot of futuristic worlds from 1990s cinema, and I have to say that Double Dragon is up there with the most realized.

And if you thought the setting was nuts, just wait until you hear what they do with the story. Jimmy and Billy are brothers who live with a sort-of adopted sister who one day tells them that she’s the caretaker of a half of a powerful amulet — the Double Dragon. That same day, the evil owner of the other half, Shuko (Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick with a truly terrifying frosted hightop) shows up and tries to claim both halves. You know, for city domination and all that. His half apparently lets him turn into a shadow monster and possess bodies, which is another thing you probably didn’t expect to see here.

Outnumbered by Shuko and the gangs, the brothers team up with the Power Corps, a vigilante gang trying to restore order to the city. And if you ever had to ask “Who’s the boss of the Power Corps?” the obvious answer is Alyssa Milano as Marian, a pixie-haired freedom fighter.

There’s a lot of energy running through Double Dragon, and while it often delves into abject silliness, upon this re-watching, I grew to respect how many stunts and fights that the director tried to pull off here. Street Fighter has developed a strong cult following in the subsequent decades, yet Double Dragon — which has just as much over-the-top acting and ’90s action sequences — hasn’t gotten as much love. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m here to tell you that it’s a far better video game movie than you’d think. I mean, it’s still not good or anything, but it’s enjoyable for what it is.

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