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. 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] I'd love to check out what you got. And check out my book, Chad in Accounting, over on Amazon.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Double Identity (2009)

A little while back I was a guest on KilmerKast with Francis Rizzo III to discuss this movie. If you're not familiar with it, KilmerKast is a podcast dedicated to looking at the films of the great Val Kilmer, but also has some other really fun segments, like looking back on the films, TV, and music that were popular when the film in question came out, and then games with the guest, like the one I did where Francis translated Kilmer titles into Swedish, and then had me guess if what he was saying was a Kilmer film title, or an IKEA item. It was a lot of fun, and a podcast everyone should check out if they haven't already.

Double Identity has Val Kilmer as a doctor in Bulgaria doing charity work who is mistaken for a British secret agent that's trying to keep an Eastern European crime boss from selling diamonds on the black market--or something like that. As most Hitchcockian thrillers are wont to do, we have a mysterious beautiful woman in Izabella Miko who is either there to help, or there to get poor Kilmer in deeper. Will our hapless hero be a little less hapless and extricate himself out of this dangerous circumstance?


This movie looks, feels, and smells like your standard 2000s era Eastern European shot DTV flick with a once big star in the lead. The reality is it could have been anyone playing this part, Kilmer, Christian Slater, Cuba Gooding Jr., etc., but the fact that it's Kilmer added a level of Kilmer-ness to it that makes it a bit more fun in my opinion. That being said, there isn't anything all that remarkable about this that makes it any more than just the standard 2000s era Eastern European shot DTV flick with a once big star in the lead. There were a few one-off scenes that felt really inspired, which is something you don't usually get from a film of this ilk, but there were just as many scenes where you're like "that felt a bit convenient/lazy/absurd." I'm not a fan of the expression "it is what it is," but this movie was what it was, either for good or for bad.

We're now at 10 Kilmer films on the site, which puts him one ahead of Christian Slater, and one behind Cuba Gooding Jr., two former big screen stars that I think are the best Kilmer comps. If you look at his IMDb bio, he did a bunch in this late 2000s/early 2010s period, and then moved on to more smaller parts in big screen films, TV roles, and indie projects. The thing is, most of them are like this one, with only a few things here or there to distinguish it from the others. I think that's why I've kind of left his stuff alone for so long--this is our first Kilmer film since we did 7 Below in October of 2013. That doesn't mean I'm not a huge fan of Kilmer's, I am, and I think seeing him here in the film was one of the bright spots; but with so many movies out there to review, "bright spots" aren't enough to push more of these above some of the newer stuff out there, or the tons of 80s and 90s stuff we still haven't reviewed yet.


When I was on KilmerKast, one of the things we talked about was how many of these DTV films were made at this time that had the same look and feel. Whether it was Sofia, Bulgaria, or Bucharest, Romania, whether it was a low-budget actioner film or a suspense yarn like this was, there was this mass-produced feel to it, kind of like the modern-day Brill Building approach to pop music where it all sounds the same. It had a cynicism to it that this film felt like it was dripping with, even when there were some truly inspired scenes or plot devices that I really liked. Shoot it in 10 days, slap a big name on the cover, add in a pretty Eastern European co-star, and get it on the video store shelves, which at that time were also mostly big chains that were looking for DVDs for people who missed out on renting one of the 30 copies of the new Transformers movie they had. That ecosystem also helped birth The Asylum, and now that all the video stores are shuttered and people are actually remembering Blockbuster with rose-tinted glasses, the Asylum is still marching on, but to some extent these Eastern European shot movies have been replaced, post-2008 financial crisis, by even quicker and cheaper shot films in places like Michigan or Louisiana. The thing has gone even more cynical in ten years, which makes me wonder what it'll look like in 2031.

Izabella Miko plays the pretty Eastern European co-star, which does sound a bit dismissive, since she's had a bigger career here in the States, but I think that gets back to the cynicism I talked about above. It's not that she's just any pretty Eastern European actress, but the film makes it feel that way. The same way that any number of stars could have played Kilmer's part, the fact that Miko brings a better acting pedigree to the proceedings isn't a value-add with the assembly-line vibe of the movie. I don't know if this were made on a bigger budget with a longer shooting schedule if the same pairing of Kilmer and Miko could have given us the kind of TNT New Classic suspense actioner that made a lot of money in the box office in the late 90s/early 2000s though either. Honestly I don't know how good any of those were, including something like The Saint that Kilmer was in, but they worked for a certain audience, and I guess that brings us back to the cynicism: make this on the cheap and hope to tap into that audience on a smaller scale.


Finally, this film is supposed to take place in 1992, which next year will be 30 years ago. I've noticed this trend online of people freaking out about how long ago the 90s are, and making comparisons with how long ago the 90s were from the 60s or 70s. Like "This year we'll be as far from when The Phantom Menace came out as The Phantom Menace was from when the original Star Wars came out." It's as if people our age were the first people to ever be old. Or is it a social media phenomenon. I mean, would someone born in the 1890s have posted in the 1940s "we're as far from 1900 as 1900 was from the start of the Civil War"? Or maybe someone my grandfather's age, being like "we're as far now from WWII as WWII was from the Civil War." And then all the comments, "Dude," "mind blown," "I'm going to go have a good cry"... okay, I made that last one up, but I like it better than "literally crying".

And with that, let's wrap this one up. You can stream this on Tubi as of this writing, and I think that's the best bet. For my money, it's really only for Kilmer completists, otherwise it's unfortunately too unremarkable. Speaking of Kilmer completists, remember to check out KilmerKast, it's a really fun time, and thank you again to Francis for having me on!

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