Double Dragon [film]
November 4, 1994
If the notion of making an action-adventure martial arts movie with budding sitcom stars like Scott Wolf (Party of 5) and Alyssa Milano (Melrose Place), ambitions larger than its technical and SFX abilities, and flimsy plot based mostly on a coin-operated arcade seems like a bad idea…Well, that’s essentially what happened with Double Dragon.
Following in the footsteps of then-recent video game-to-film flop Super Mario Bros. (1993), Double Dragon attempts to explore a dystopian urban future—in this case, the far off year of 2007—and a pair of heroes out to stop a bunch of overly costumed villains from imposing their ill will on the megacity. In Double Dragon the setting is “New Angeles” and the cartoonish baddies include a gaggle of mohawked punks and crime boss Shuko, played by Robert Patrick (Die Hard 2, Terminator 2) while the film’s main protagonists Jimmy and Billy Lee are played by Mark Dacascos and Wolf respectively.
While there are some recognizable names on the cast list of Double Dragon, noticeably lacking are martial arts-trained actors. In fact, only Dacascos, trained in Muay Thai and capoeira has any actual experience in hand-to-hand combat, while the rest of the ensemble is made up of soap opera and sitcom stars. As such, the fighting choreography is poor and sparse, and the film relies on underbudgeted attempts at special effects and visual imagery that look cheesy and antiquated even for its time.
The game upon which Double Dragon is based remains a classic. Both the arcade version and NES port are highly regarded as archetypes of the beat-em-up format and still stand the test of time. The film, however, won’t satisfy even the most fervent of fans. With sub-par fighting, acting, execution, and inexplicable name changes that don’t stay true to the game, Double Dragon is a disaster of dystopia that only serves as a reminder of the challenges of video game adaptation and a lesson in how not to do it.