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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Double Dragon’ Has Look, but Not Plot

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Double Dragon,” a clever and lively adaptation of the popular video game, takes its title from an ancient Chinese talisman that has been broken in half. Rejoin the two pieces, and you can turn yourself into a veritable Superman.

That’s just what evil tycoon Koga Shuko (Robert Patrick), who possesses one half, has in mind. It’s 2007, seven years after the Big Quake, and Shuko needs the whole talisman to bring “New Angeles’ ” roving gangs under his control. “I just want total domination of one American city,” he whines to an aide. “Is that too much to ask?”

You have to wonder why he’s bothering, because “Double Dragon” does a dynamite job of envisioning our city largely in ruins, so much of it submerged in water that Hollywood Boulevard is now a river. In any event, the other half of the talisman is in the possession of two teen-age martial-artist brothers, Jimmy (Mark Dacascos) and Billy (Scott Wolf) Lee, whose late father was an archeologist.

This Gramercy release, expertly aimed at youthful audiences, is another instance of an exceedingly elementary plot played against production design and special effects of awe-inspiring imagination and sophistication. Indeed, “Double Dragon,” which marks the stylish, zesty directorial debut of Jim Yukich, a prize-winning maker of music videos and TV specials, envisions the future so boldly and dramatically that it could easily sustain more plot and character development; its ending especially could use a couple of more involving twists.

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But the film, which has a light, humorous touch, is fun anyway, and most likely we haven’t seen the last of the “Double Dragon” Lee duo.

* MPAA rating: PG-13, for martial arts violence. Times guidelines: Its martial arts violence is routine, not excessive.

‘Double Dragon’

Mark Dacascos: Jimmy Lee Scott Wolf: Billy Lee Robert Patrick: Koga Shuko Alyssa Milano: Narian Delario Julia Nickson: Satori Imada A Gramercy Pictures release of a Greenleaf presentation of an Imperial Entertainment & Scanbox production. Director James Yukich. Producers Snil R. Shah, Ash R. Shah & Alan Schecter; Jane Hamsher & Don Murphy. Executive producers Sundip R. Shah & Anders P. Jensen. Screenplay by Michael Davis & Peter Gould from a story by Paul Dini & Neral Shusterman. Cinematographer Gary Kibbe. Special effects Joseph and Paul Lombardi. Editor Florent Retz. Costumes Fiona Spence. Music Jay Ferguson. Production designer Mayne Berke. Art director Maya Shimoguchi. Set decorator Kristan Andrews. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

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* In general release throughout Southern California.


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