I've just had the good fortune to re-discover a 1997 action epic that, if I'd had the good fortune to have watched it when it premiered, I'm pretty confident would have made me break out in hives. I mean that in the best way. No, I'm not talking about "Men In Black," "Air Force One," or "Face/Off." If you guessed "Titanic," you would also be wrong
Hark Tsui's "Double Team"
Wow. This movie chock full of the pre-Matrix action movie isms that defined the Hong Kong influenced big budget action of the 80s and 90s. Take that style, throw in some crazy (a fist fight with a tiger, cyber monks, scuba go go dancers, and some elements that reek of martinis shaken, not stirred), and you get something like "Double Team." It's an action flick trying to wear an epic's suit. The result is ill-fitting, but endearing nonetheless. Of course, my next thoughts were "Is there a seguel?", "Is it possible they will make one?", and "Where are those talented gentlemen now?" I found answers to my first two questions relatively quickly (no, NO), but the third requires a more complex answer
Jean-Claude Van Damme
The years that followed "Double Team" found Van Damme starring in increasingly obscure, foreign release only vehicles. This process occurred gradually, but Van Damme has continued to work steadily. Most of you reading this will already be familiar with the film many have categorized as a comeback for the aging action star, 2008's "JCVD."
This film is an endearing, intensely personal depiction of the interplay between Van Damme as a person with very real problems and the fading image of himself as an international martial arts action star. All in all a total surprise. I will not ruin it by trying to describe it. I will, however, tell you it's out on DVD next week, so check it out!
It's unclear at this point what impact this foray into post-modern drama will have on Van Damme's career. So far, he's continued to make films much in the pattern he has for the last decade, one exciting exception being the announcement of the long awaited third, oh:
technically fourth film in the Universal Soldier series. Ok, not a huge departure, BUT it will have Dolph Lundgren in it. Nostalgia-driven dorky excitement abounds. After all, maybe returning to an old school, big budget action formula is what JCVD needs. NOBODY needs more of this
Dennis "The Worm" Rodman
Rodman's flirtation with Hollywood has remained sporadic. His most notable forays into film following double team have been the 1999 action "comedy" "Simon Sez" and the 2008 Itailian super hit, "The Minis." You have got to see this
I can say from personal experience that "The Minis" will make you question all that is music, sports, short, and possibly real. It also features the best blue screen effect ever. No joke. Italy loved it, though. They had Happy Meal toys and cross promotions out the hey-ho.
Rodman's shown up on foreign TV and a few episodes of "Celebrity Apprentice," but the movie gods have not granted him any further full-length film projects. Yet.
So, who does this leave us now? You'd barely know it from the trailer, but Mickey Rourke was in "Double Team," too. By "in," I mean he was actually the main villain of the film! He actually has more screen time than Rodman does! The fact his mention was excluded in promos for the film is an amazing sign of how far Rourke's star had fallen by this point. This photo is from two years prior.
The sections of the story/film that directly concerns Rourke reeks of cut scenes and extensive re-writes. I'd go so far as to say the story seems to have been completely reinvented to avoid the character. In fact, Rourke and Van Damme are rarely ever in the same frame, with Rourke's presence often reduced to a disembodied voice issuing from a loudspeaker or walkie talky. When he does physically appear, his dialog has been re-dubbed extremely badly. Always a good sign the actor was having some trouble saying lines clearly and generally making his mouth the right shape when he spoke. Adding chemicals to your brain will do this. Although still in amazing physical shape, this is clearly Rourke on the descendant. Thanks, drugs!
You don't need me to tell you about Mickey Rourke's return to glory this last year: "The Wrestler," his Golden Globe win, Oscar nomination, and the more general recognition of his talent. If you have been alive and in contact with other humans, I'm sure you're aware of that. What's to come is what's interesting
Rourke has worked consistently through his personal problems, usually in second tier crime thrillers; usually wearing sunglasses; usually in a supporting role as an "ultimate badass" or a villain. In some respects, that's not likely to change. As with JCVD, he may have reached a renewed level of public acclaim, but still has a certain lingering public image, and a niche market that, if anything, would welcome his continued badassery more warmly than ever. The long-delayed release of "The Informers," his role in Stallone's "The Expendables," and his rumored casting in "Sin City 2" and "Rambo V" fit this pattern. Admittedly, I haven't seen those movies yet, so I'm making educated guesses here. Unlike JCVD's role in "JCVD", however, Rourke's performance in "The Wrestler" was NOT a reinvention of himself as an actor, but rather a renaissance, a return of something that had been muffled, but never smothered. Rourke seems to have duly returned to Hollywood's good graces, giving him starring roles in more serious Oscar bait type projects, as well as a confirmed role as a villain in "Iron Man 2," opposite Robert Downey Jr. On a special note: And yay for Robert Downey Jr.'s comeback, too. Yay for that! If it were possible, I would want those two to make a baby, so it could grow up to be my new favorite actor: Miwney Rouret Jr. Also, what a perfect name for NPR.
Admittedly, I will continue to watch Rourke and JCVD's movies, regardless of whether they continue to crush my heart (gently within their strong, strong hands) and simultaneously give me a renewed appreciation for life, or just blow things up and act like it ain't no thing. Either way, I think they are awesome with what they do. That makes me hopeful -- hopeful that maybe, in time, the world will even give Dennis Rodman another chance. There has never been a "Space Jam" sequel, just sayin'.
In unrelated, but more timely news, My Bloody Valentine is playing tonight! Who's excited? More importantly, who else is going? Ladytron and the Faint are playing at Stubbs tonight, too. Try as I might, I can't get excited about that. I've never been big on the Faint, but I will admit there was a time I listened to Ladytron like it was the only thing keeping me alive. Both times I've seen them live have left me kinda flat. Their demure, too cool to move thing that's so cool in their photos can come across as awkward and stiff on stage. Maybe this time will be different. If you check it out, let me know how it goes down, because I'sa curious.
AND AND this weekend is shaping up to be pretty epic, so expect an events post soon