The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Double (2011)

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In the second film of our big screen stars go DTV week, we look at The Double starring former box office heavy hitter Richard Gere. Two things about this post before we start. First and foremost, this is a suspense/spy yarn filled with plot twists, and while I'll try my best to avoid giving too much away, even by not talking about something I'll kind of be talking about it, if you know what I mean. To be on the safe side, if you're planning on watching this, and want to go in cold, I'd come back to this review after seeing it. The other is more of a personal side note. I have this friend that is a very bad speller. One time, I showed him something I wrote, and he meant to scribble "Double Barrel" on it, which was our-speak for two middle fingers. Problem is, he spelled "double" "dubble", and from that point, I've been saying "dah-bubble" whenever I see the word "double", initially in mocking him, but now as a habit. That means this title has been somewhat troubling for me-- er rather, "trah-bubbling".

The Double has Richard Gere as a retired CIA company man that did a lot of espionage stuff during the Cold War. There was this one Russian spy Cassius that he could never catch though. Well, it looks like ol' Cassius is back after a fifteen-year hiatus, so the CIA calls Gere out of retirement and has him work with rookie FBI agent Topher Grace, who just happened to write his MA thesis on Cassius. Will they be able to bring down this greatest of all spies? And more importantly, is everyone who they seem to be?-- because they almost never are in spy movies.

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Part of me feels like this one went one plot twist too many, and that made it a little too silly; but another part of me feels like that last plot twist was kind of necessary. It was the one you most expected, and the laziest one they could've gone for, so in that sense, it does undermine whatever this had going on for it. And that's the other question, exactly what does this have going on for it? After Gere and a few other solid supporting performances, like Martin Sheen's and Tamer Hassan's, this is really just your run-of-the-mill spy yarn, the kind of thing that thinks it's more sophisticated than it is. For me, it was okay, but not great.

Let's take a look at Mr. Gere's rap sheet. Starred in some of the most iconic films of the last 30-35 years, including American Gigolo, An Officer and a Gentleman, Pretty Woman, and 2002's best picture winning Chicago; in the 90s, had the hottest woman in the game wearing his chain in supermodel Cindy Crawford; and for Unfaithful and The Mothman Prophecies, made $15 million each. One thing I noticed right away here, is that he's still got it. First scene, he's at a little league game talking to one of the mothers, and all the game is still there, he's still very much leading man he was back then. I don't know that this movie is more a blip than a trend for him though, because he is over 60, and leading roles with decent pay might be more readily available in Abu Dhabi funded DTV flicks shot in Michigan, especially ones with more action like this one. He's also probably reached a point where his market is mostly people who don't make it out to the movies anymore, but that means his stuff from the 90s and 2000s still burns up TNT's New Classics and whatnot, so it's not like there isn't money to be made by starring him in something like this that's DTV or made for TV.

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Gere's co-star was Topher Grace, whom we know better from That 70s Show. For a while it seemed like Ashton Kutcher was the most successful from that cast, but it looks now as if Mila Kunis is surging past him. Grace has always been third behind those two, I think not quite leading man material, but solid enough an actor that he should still be getting work. I need to see Take Me Home Tonight, but I thought he was pretty decent in Predators. Here he was leaning on his youthful appearance to play the rookie to Gere's seasoned veteran, which, again, makes the final plot twist either too much to swallow, or make a lot of sense. I have a feeling Grace is going to be one of those boomerang guys that fluctuates between the big screen and DTV, but we'll see, he may just go back to TV like Kutcher did if the roles aren't there.

Other co-stars include Sheen and Hassan-- who I already mentioned above. Neither are in it much, Sheen playing the head of the CIA, and Hassan playing the baddie. They both give this more of a DTV feel though, because we've seen the two of them here at the DTVC before. We also had Castle's Stana Katic as a Russian prostitute interrogated by Gere somewhat violently (I wonder, though, if that was a career highlight for her, having Richard Gere pinning her to the ground with a gun to her head and yelling at her-- it would be for me) and Christopher Marquette as Grace's partner at the FBI offices. Finally, I had to mention Odette Yustman (now Annable), who plays Grace's wife. You might remember her from The Unborn-- or rather, her butt from The Unborn. The movie was sold primarily on a shot of her from behind looking at herself in the mirror in her underwear. Here you are fellas, taking your lady to the movies, what are you going to see? There's a poster for The Unborn, you point to it. "Oh honey, I heard this one was really good!" "Which one? Oh, that... no, we're not seeing that." "What, because... oh, I didn't even notice that until you pointed it out... no, no, it's got Gary Oldman in it, that's why I want to see it... come on, you think I want to see a flick just because it's got a hot babe in her underwear in the poster?" "Uh-huh."

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This movie was shot in Michigan, but takes place in Washington, D.C. Just in case we don't believe them, they pad the film out with shots of DC landmarks. Though I've never been to Michigan, I have had two occasions to visit the nation's capital. Few cool things I remembered: great Ethiopian food, a great Chinatown, and a great city to do the tourist thing in. Also, they have a nice subway system. Another thing I remembered though: some of the worst traffic ever. We were coming back from Tyson's Corner, and being Mainers, we didn't think about the time-- actually, being from near Boston, we still didn't think of the time, because Boston never gets as bad for rush hour as what we saw there-- and found ourselves smack in the evening commute.

All right, I've padded this review out enough, time to wrap it up. While there's the Richard Gere novelty to this, it's still pretty run-of-the-mill. You've seen this before, you've seen all the plot twists and double-crosses before, the question is, do you like this kind of thing? If so, check The Double out on Watch Instantly while you can, or rent it on DVD.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1646980/

6 comments:

  1. Good review! This is on my instant queue too. Will still check it out eventually.

    Richard Gere was also in another decent DTV thriller called The Flock with Claire Danes.

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  2. Every time I see a movie come out that's called "The Double" I keep hoping it'll be an adaptation of the Dostoevsky novella. Still - this movie doesn't look too bad. Added to Netflix queue.

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  3. This was good, but the twists n turns got my head spinning a bit...good , evil..what was it...but Gere was good...he is especially good when he isnt the allaround nice guy. I dont even remember the end anymore...gives me a chance to see it again fresh another time,lol.
    And yeah, the Flock was good as well..

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  4. I'll have to check The Flock out. For some reason I didn't think it was a thriller, so I stayed off of it. I think I confused it with something else.

    I agree helford, give Gere a little nuance, and it goes a long way. And my favorite Doestoevsky adaptation was Kurosawa's The Idiot. It'd be interesting to see what a modern director could do with The Double though Alex-- Maybe Woody Allen, a guy who really loves Dostoevsky.

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  5. Thanks for this review. I was contemplating this one, now I think i'm going to skip it. I like Richard Gere a whole lot, but not enough for something by the numbers. Thanks again!

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  6. Richard Gere is pretty good here, and it's good to see that he still has it, but yeah, you probably wouldn't want to see him in something paint-by-numbers when you have so many past performances that were in better films. No problem on warning-- I try to endure the bad ones so you don't have to.

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