In the early-to-mid 1990s, after John Woo’s The Killer opened up the floodgates of Hong Kong action cinema for cult-movie fans in America and around the world, there could be no doubting the major creative interchange between Hong Kong and Hollywood. And Jean-Claude Van Damme savvily offered himself as the bridge, introducing star HK directors like Woo (Hard Target), Ringo Lam (Maximum Risk), and Tsui Hark to mainstream, English-speaking audiences. While no one would argue that JCVD’s back-to-back collaborations with Tsui, Double Team and Knock Off, are on a level with Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain or Once Upon A Time In China, there’s still plenty of evidence of Tsui’s stylistic whimsy. Of the two, 1997’s Double Team is the most consistently apeshit, a wondrous piece of good-bad cinema that pairs Van Damme with deranged Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman, who comes armed with stilted one-liners and tortured basketball references. (“The best defense is a good offense,” he offers, despite Rodman being known for his tenacity on defense and haplessness shooting from beyond the two-foot range.) Van Damme stars as a CIA agent who teams up with Rodman, a weapons dealer, to take down a criminal mastermind named Stavros, played by bronzed, steroidal Mickey Rourke. Double Team was ridiculed by critics at the time, but there’s something infectious about its commitment to bizarre ideas, like a community of cyber-monks or an island of CIA agent penned in by underwater lasers or an unforgettable showdown at The Colosseum involving tigers and bomb-resistant Coke machines. Maybe there’s method to Double Team’s madness, maybe it’s just madness, but it’s guaranteed afternoon fun at 12:15 p.m. Eastern on Encore Black today.
May 14, 2015 Cable Pick Of The Day