What’s it rated? PG-13
Where? Amazon Prime, Tubi
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel like watching Double Dragon, a colorful, escapist, post-apocalyptic martial arts adventure that recently got added to Amazon Prime (free for members).
My fascination with this 1994 video game adaptation—part of that early to mid-’90s trend along with Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat—increased immensely in recent years upon discovering it was co-written by Peter Gould (of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame).
I’ve always been extremely nostalgic toward this film (I grew up playing the Super Nintendo video game) but the Gould revelation adds a bit more validity to my stance against its unfavorable critical reception. I think it’s a lot more clever and charming than critics at the time gave it credit for—13 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, yikes!
Take the film’s imaginative, futuristic setting for example: Los Angeles in ... 2007, “a few years after the big quake.” I distinctly remember watching the film on VHS during the early 2000s and asking my dad about the concept. “Yep, there’s gonna be a big earthquake in California! We’re way overdue,” he said nonchalantly. I immediately envisioned our future looking exactly as Double Dragon predicted: half-destroyed skyscrapers and Warriors-esque gangs (each with its own flamboyant theme) everywhere you look. Is it weird to say I was kind of excited? And impatient even. 2007 seemed so far away at the time, and I was dying to join the Mailmen someday (yes, one of the gangs featured in the film is themed as a group of postal workers, complete with uniforms and mail bags).
Even if the weird atmosphere of this alternate future doesn’t fully make up for Double Dragon’s simplistic story (bad guys try to steal the good guys’ magical medallion to take over the world), it at least lends itself to some truly unique action sequences. In one scene, the film’s protagonists, brothers Jimmy (Mark Dacascos) and Billy Lee (Scott Wolf), helm a ski boat to escape masked assassins, who pursue the duo on jet skis.
It’s the location of this chase that makes the scene so memorable though: a flooded version of Hollywood Boulevard. The upper half of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and other Hollywood landmarks are visible above the surface of the lake as Jimmy and Billy swiftly evade incoming torpedoes.
The coolest character in the film by far though is its main antagonist, Koga Shuko, a sadistic but ultimately too-hilarious-to-take-seriously megalomaniac played by Robert Patrick, fresh off of playing the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. His performance as Shuko has previously been described as a combination of that iconic shape-shifting android and ... rap artist Vanilla Ice. I’ll let you find out why for yourselves. (96 min.)—Caleb Wiseblood