The Double Dragon series left an indelible impression on me as a child, mostly because this is the opening scene.
“I’m like 8 years old,” I tried to explain to the arcade cabinet. “I don’t need to see a loving pixel render of a woman getting punched in the gut so hard she partially digests her spine.”
“Double Dragon” the arcade cabinet said.
And it was hard to argue with that.
(By the way, I hope you appreciate that gif. I had to search “Double Dragon Girlfriend Punch” to find it, and that’s how Google translates the name of a brutal Chinese human trafficking gang. I am now on several watchlists.)
Anyway, this is not about the video game series. We’re here to talk about the Double Dragon movie, which was so ‘90s you are now wearing rollerblades. Go ahead, check.
They’re metaphorical, dipshit.
First I should explain that I am now very poor, and so am watching the movie on Tubi, which is perhaps the best of the free streaming services. And that’s a little like claiming you could beat the shit out of any child in the chemotherapy ward. It might be true, but there is no pride in that boast. Tubi is like the Discover card: Barely accepted.
Here, look at this:
I’m not sure if something is wrong with my version of Tubi — like it knows that I will only use it to watch terrible video game movies from several decades ago, and cannot bring itself to respect me for that decision — but the UI does not disappear while you’re watching. That’s probably not the biggest deal, and I’ll do my best to crop it out for most of these images. But I wanted subtitles on for these screencaps, because “we’re starting to look like the double dorks” is the most subtle and well-written line of dialogue in this movie. Yet Tubi is such a fly-by-night operation that the video progress bar overlaps the subtitles. Meaning that the more of Double Dragon a deaf person watches, the less they will understand.
Of course, this is also true of a non-deaf person, because the team behind Double Dragon opted to adapt it as a wacky ‘90s mystical cyberpunk gang comedy, like if Shadowrun boned The Fresh Prince and made The Warriors watch.
I don’t think any of us will benefit from analyzing the plot of this film, since every movie in the ‘90s was about how, if we all got together, maybe we could beat up capitalism? And there’s no point dissecting characters whose backstory is “punch lady. Bad?” But there is one thing we can learn from Double Dragon…
That’s right, I lured you five hundred words into this article just to spring a fashion show on you. It’s too late to back out now, you’re committed. You should learn to skim, motherfucker.
We’ll start with the main villain, Koga Shuko, whom you might recognize as the T-1000 from Terminator 2, but only if you ignore his pleas to not do that. Oddly, Koga sports one of the film’s most approachable looks.
His ensemble features bold lines carefully crafted to make him look like a curious little boy trying on mommy’s pantsuit. That outfit is so terrible it actually overshadows him saying “Lotus Flower, I’ve missed your sense of peasant justice.” That is an insane sentence, and the only thing that could possibly distract from it would be if you delivered it while wearing a Business Jumpsuit that makes you look like Wesley Snipes’ accountant.
Here it is again. He’s saying “sudden molecular steroids” and everything about that begs for elaboration, but the first thing you’re going to ask is “does Grace Jones know you stole her everything?”
One more time: Here he is saying the craziest shit I have heard this side of a rap battle for stroke patients…
…and the only thing I can think is, “I remember this all-dwarf porn parody of Max Headroom being more erotic.”
Here’s one of Shuko’s henchmen, Bo Abobo, absolutely rocking the ‘fat Akira.’
He’s jazzing that old look up with a saucy little military jacket and white thigh-highs which say, “I might be a horde of meaningless flesh bubbling in crude mockery of the human form, but who wants to Go-go dance?!”
One of the many gangs in the movie appear to be some kind of vampire mimes…
This one is caught in the cruel demilitarized zone between ‘16th century undead’ and ‘sullen teenager reluctantly attending clown college because he comes from three generations of disappointments and feels he owes something to the bloodline.’
Here’s another of the clown gang:
Now, these goofy bastards might not be great fighters, but they do privately rejoice in knowing that each swipe of their bulbous fingers leaves an entire crime scene worth of children’s blood and clown semen on their victims.
The rest of our gangs range from average punk rockers to criminal mailmen to ‘90s R&B sensation Luther Vandross.
One of them consists entirely of grown men dressed like Ness from EarthBound.
While the most prominent group, the Maniacs, are trying out a bold new look this summer: Frayed knitting over dirty underwear.
That’s their leader, which is absurd…
Since this guy is my president.
‘Nick Fury in a rapidly dissolving cable knit sweater’ is the pornographic search term I save to finish with, and this movie has brought him to life. If only he was somehow also in a filthy dress, I would…
This article will resume after a brief intermission.
Only slightly less sultry are our final gang, the Huffy Boys.
They have no unifying theme aside from that every one of them loves their cheap, heavy bike from the least popular aisle in Toys “R” Us.
The villains don’t get all the aesthetics, though. Here’s our ‘good guy militia,’ the Power Corps:
…looking like somebody briefly explained anarchy to the cast of Blossom.
The Power Corps are like a Benetton ad for Occupy Wall Street.
Even the children are forced to dress like a colorblind racist explained the flags of Africa to a synesthete.
But none compare to the sheer madness of the leader of the Power Corps, Alyssa Milano, who wears mom-jean Daisy Dukes sewn to lingerie garters that keep up her extremely baggy, multicolored canvas shinpants.
I don’t know what that outfit is for: Making sure your knees stay unbloodied while you fuck in the killzone of a Black Friday riot at Kohl’s?
All of this textural gibberish leaves our normie heroes looking boring until the very end, when they get the Double Dragon amulet. (Remember: the producers of Double Dragon greenlit the movie at the words “Double Dragon,” and then insisted “we’ll come up with the rest” before railing 16 grams of cocaine off of an abused tiger kept solely for this occasion).
There’s Billy and Jimmy powering up for their ultimate transformation, exploding out of a smokey glitter dust cloud to…
Stand uncomfortably in rhinestone karate gis.
They look like two children realizing that mom’s hot glue gun can’t make you a Transformer after all. Those are the outfits a drag queen wears to make fun of Eddie Murphy in Raw. These are the uniforms that separate well-trained ball torturers from cheap escorts aimlessly stomping you on the dick. This is the moment Billy and Jimmy Lee realized they’d never pull off their MC Hammer cosplay without going full blackface.
And now, because I am a complete child, here’s every time I giggled because the captioner transcribed the fighting sounds as ‘whacking.’