Game – Movie Review: Double Dragon (1994)

The 90’s was are an interesting time for game movie adaptions. 1993 gave us the horrendous Super Mario Bros. movie and 1995 saw Mortal Kombat make a splash before burning down all the goodwill earned with 1997’s sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. At the end of the decade Wing Commander got a movie but perhaps the most famously bad adaption came in 1994 with Street Fighter. It wasn’t alone that year though as a month earlier Double Dragon was released.

There are many adaptions that will make you scratch your head. Super Mario Bros. is a great example of an odd choice, as is DOA: Dead or Alive, Postal and House of the Dead. However, the strangest has to be Double Dragon.

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The first game, Double Dragon, was released in the arcades in 1987. The player takes control of martial artist Billy Lee, or his twin brother Jimmy and must make their way through side-scrolling stages beating up enemies along the way. It was simple, fun, satisfying and spawned many sequels and re-releases as well as this film.

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Turning that game into a movie was a big ask but story-wise, Double Dragon is solid and certainly entertains. Its problems come elsewhere; from the acting to the characters of Billy and Jimmy to the bland and far-too-familiar post-apocalyptic backdrop.

Koga Shuko (Robert Patrick) is searching for the missing half of a magic medallion called the Double Dragon. He is a major crime-lord along with the punk-like gangs that roam the city. A city that has been devastated by earthquakes.

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Elsewhere in the city, Satori (Julia Nickson) has been caring for the teenage brothers Billy (Scott Wolf) and Jimmy Lee (Mark Dacascos). The pair are marital arts students but can’t get past their sibling conflicts to win contests. After a bad showing, they run into trouble with a gang who discover that Satori holds the other half of the Double Dragon medallion.

A showdown with Koga Shuko is on the cards but for the brothers to win they’re going to have to work together alongside, Marian (Alyssa Milano) who, unlike the game, is not a damsel in distress here!

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The biggest flaw in Double Dragon comes with its leads, Billy and Jimmy. Neither actor plays their roles convincingly but the over-the-top upbeat nature of their characters is grating. They’re so peppy that they irritate and you’ll end up siding with the villain just so they’ll stop talking.

Talking of which, Robert Patrick plays his role with some vigour and while his character is utterly absurd, he is at least a lot of fun to watch. Which is what Double Dragon is, fun to watch. It’s a product of a time and hasn’t aged well at all. It barely ties into the game but does have a few moments for fans such as the finale that sees the brothers face off in a fight and also end up in their videogame colours.

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Double Dragon isn’t a bad videogame adaption but it’s not a good one either. It falls squarely in the middle as entertaining that can be enjoyed as silly martial arts action flick. If you’re not expecting gold then you won’t be disappointed.

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Double Dragon
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