Review: DOUBLE TROUBLE is as Familiar, Lightweight, and Amiable as Its Title Implies

columnist, critic; USA (@suddenlyquiet)
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Review: DOUBLE TROUBLE is as Familiar, Lightweight, and Amiable as Its Title Implies
I'll tell you the perfect way to see Double Trouble, one that you can perhaps duplicate in spirit if not actuality: make sure a nine-year-old and twelve-year-old are with you at the time. That's the way I screened it, and I'm sure their infectious giggles and spontaneous martial arts moves added immensely to my pleasure at the film's aggressive silliness. Not relentless silliness, mind you, but aggressive silliness, the kind that can become tiresome if you aren't in the right frame of receptivity. Oh, and in case you're considering taking this advice literally, please know that there are a couple of minor off-color references and bits of language, but otherwise Double Trouble represents the kind of fun that's probably best enjoyed by those not yet in high school.

Of course David Hsun-Wei Chang's film isn't being marketed as kids' fare, nor should it be really. In fact, with its slightly misleading poster featuring the fetching Jessica C. (her name is the first-billed), Double Trouble is clearly going for an, er, older set. Still, it features just enough eye-rolling goofiness to keep audiences of a much younger age in stitches while so little of Jessica C. and fellow hot girl--sorry, that's a typo, it's actually "hit girl" in the credits--Shoko that any post-pubescent males are apt to be disappointed. Even things that are supposed to come across as edgy and vaguely "sexy" are so (intentionally?) ridiculous that they undercut themselves. I'm thinking particularly of a scene where main baddie "Crime Boss Z." (Vivian Dawson) chooses to punish his two aforementioned and scantily-clad henchwomen (am I coining a term here?) by binding them into some quasi-weightlifting apparatus so that his workout reps "torture" them.

What of the real star of the film, you ask, Jaycee Chan? Well, he's quite solid in a role that requires little more than straight-man sobriety, a comfort level with wire-enhanced stunt sequences, and a hugely appealing grin that can't help but recall his dad. The other half of the "trouble" cited in the title is played by the talented Xia Yu, who takes on the role of a dimwitted vacationing Beijing security guard in Taiwan who must team up with Chan's security guard to retrieve a priceless painting. Actually, I should have put "must" in quotes since the plot requires a hefty suspension of commonsense from the audience in order for it to accept their partnership.

With this set-up one might expect the playing-out of an interesting clash-of-cultures theme. Or perhaps the storyline will contrast their skills as guards with what's really needed in this case, which is an investigatory skill set. That premise might be ripe for action-comedy exploitation, right? Or, even more grandly, perhaps there's a turning-the-tables conceit that has them use their expertise as security guards to infiltrate Z.'s sanctum and retrieve the stolen object...?

Instead of anything along these lines, Double Trouble has our duo tooling aimlessly around looking for a particular tour bus. That makes it more of an opportunistic road movie than a full-bore action flick, despite a couple of satisfying set pieces. Even these, however, demand that we don't dare question anything too closely. For example, in the kinetic, undeniably diverting sequence that takes place when our leads finally do catch up with that tour bus, please don't stop to wonder why the bus's driver doesn't simply pull over or try another form of evasion even as other vehicles start ramming alongside. Rather, he continues driving calmly down the middle of the highway while mayhem is exploding all around his busload of passengers. Why? Because if he did otherwise the scene would get all mussed by what we quaintly term "reality."

In the end, the combination of formula and fizziness doesn't quite doom Double Trouble--how could it, when that's what it seems to be aiming for? Indeed, in looking over the press notes I see that the director's statement contains the following admission: "I was initially inspired by Rush Hour and its famous tagline: 'The fastest hands from the East meet the fastest mouth from the West.'"

Which kind of tells you all you really need to know, doesn't it?
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"Double Trouble" opens today in Toronto, Boston, NY, LA, Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver. More information about the film’s North American release can be found on China Lion’s official site.