It is the year 2007, and Los Angeles has been close to devastated by a huge earthquake, leaving it still picking up the pieces, renamed New Angeles and infested with gangs the police have difficulty controlling, even with a curfew every night. One man orchestrating at least some of this mayhem is the wealthy and powerful business tycoon Koga Shuko (Robert Patrick), but he has bigger fish to fry than pitting the city against itself, for he is seeking yet more influence over the world and to attain that he must get his hands on the Double Dragon medallion. He has already sent his second in command Lash (Kristina Wagner) to China to seize one half of it from a village of monks, but where can he find the other half?
How about around the neck of Scott Wolff, here playing one half of a pair of brothers? Mark Dacascos played the other half, and as Jimmy and Billy they represented two computer game characters made flesh, for this was part of the first wave of movies derived from amusement arcade favourites, a subgenre of the action scene that was entirely derided by both critics and fans alike. Only the truly uncritical were able to get much out of the likes of Super Mario Bros and Streetfighter big screen incarnations, to name just two, and very few of them were actual hits, with Mortal Kombat proving the most successful, though its sequel had almost no fans to speak of. Back at Double Dragon, it hit a snag early on when it couldn’t find a distributor.
Therefore it took two years for anyone to actually see it, at which point dedicated players of the game had tended to move on to other diversions, and even then it was barely released, managing the odd weekend in cinemas before sputtering onto home video to be widely ignored aside from the very young who would treat it as they did the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies as far as martial arts flicks went. Not that there was a tremendous amount of that sort of combat to be seen here, as no matter what occurred in the arcades, Billy and Jimmy in the movies spent most of their time running away from danger rather than facing it head (and fist, and foot) on, not making for the most heroic couple of heroes you would ever see.
The defining element of the source was that fighting, but director James Yukich, the man to call on by many of the biggest middle of the road pop and rock acts of the eighties and nineties to make their videos, preferred to overstuff the frame with busy post-apocalypse production design and garish costuming instead of filling the movie with action, indeed he seemed to be under the impression he was making a comedy. Cartoon fans may be dismayed to see the name Paul Dini in the writing credits, but who knows what this contribution to this mishmash was when it came across as created by a committee trying to pander to their audience yet unsure of what shape that should take.
At least the plot was childishly simple, drawn from but not sticking that close to the original, with most of it taking the format of a selection of chase scenes, often with Dacascos and Wolff turning to each other and screaming before doing anything, a nineties cliché that fortunately fell out of favour. Give it this: it did look unmistakably of its time, and for nostalgists that may be enough for a hit of pure yesteryear, with Alyssa Milano wearing the same awful outfit throughout and sporting a hairstyle often seen on British football casuals of the day, not her best look. She was there to be ogled by both leading men, but even she didn’t get a lot to do as far as beating ‘em up went, with a scuffle with Wagner the most she could hope for. Patrick in the meantime hammed it up, but was handicapped by his villain’s ability to inhabit other bodies, so didn’t need to be on the set for most of his scenes, and Julia Nickson as the brothers’ guardian was simply present to be avenged. Add in a parody of bulked up baddies and Al Leong, and you had a disaster – but a strangely watchable disaster. Music by Jay Ferguson.