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New Releases for Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Double Impact: Collector’s Edition

Genre: Action

Directed by: Sheldon Lettich

Run time: 110 minutes

Rating: R

Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: For years, I have loved Double Impact for one very specific reason – Cory Everson, whose debut as butt-kicking femme fatale Kara sent my 21-year-old heart into overdrive.

But today, 28 years after its theatrical release, and with a brand-new collector’s edition debuting in high-definition, I have a new-found appreciation for Double Impact.

While this was Jean-Claude Van Damme’s eighth film as a leading action hero, it marked the first time he took on a producer’s responsibility and the second time JCVD actually scripted his own starring vehicle.

Thankfully, unlike Lionheart, this time it worked wonders.

You can sense Van Damme’s ambition early on. Instead of immediately focusing on himself, he takes time to set up the core narrative about two twin brothers separated after a terrible tragedy when their parents are brutally killed.

Following a 25-year time-jump, Double Impact finds JCVD actually “acting,” in so much as you can tell the care he took in trying to craft two wholly distinct characters in brothers Alex and Chad Wagner.

Chad is a spandex-wearing fitness guru working with his father’s longtime protector, Frank (Geoffrey Lewis), whereas Alex is a roughneck smuggler still living in Hong Kong.

While it might not look like much more than one brother is clean-shaven and the other is scruffy and smokes cigars, the dual roles actually make JCVD work harder than in any of his previous films.

Of course, this being the early 1990’s, it’s sad to see that homophobia and infidelity still rank as comedic punchlines, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an action film from that era that didn’t troll in such waters.

What I didn’t remember about Double Impact is the actual impact and weight that came from having a seasoned veteran like Lewis in the cast.

While his character basically serves to bully Chad and Alex into murder and revenge, Lewis is still exceptional in the role and provides a solid anchor to keep the film from losing focus.

I might have fallen in love with Double Impact because of Everson, but re-watching the film from a critic’s perspective has helped me realize that this is actually one of Van Damme’s best movies, along with Timecop, Universal Soldier and Cyborg.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – There really is no way to overstate how incredibly gorgeous Cory Everson is in this movie.

Nudity – Brief. Gore – No.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Anyone dumb enough to stand in the way of JCVD.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

Greta (Universal, 98 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Neil Jordan makes a welcome return to genre cinema after a six-year absence with the effective thriller Greta, which while not perfect is still a solid watch.

The fact that Greta works as well as it does is a testament to its leading actresses, Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz, but Jordan’s deft direction coupled with his smart script definitely elevates this away from other direct-to-DVD stalker thrillers.

Hubert, in particular, is fantastic in a role that could have skidded off-course quickly in a less-skilled actor’s hands. She’s appropriately sweet one minute, when visiting an animal rescue shelter – ‘May I come in?’ she asks the discarded pup she’s about to adopt – whereas the next scene she’s Facebook stalking her new obsession, Frances (Grace Moretz).

Greta also gets points for not being dumb. Frances’ roommate Erica (Maika Monroe) immediately gets what’s going on, which is refreshing, and unlike other genre films, when she explains it to Frances, she isn’t met with an eyeroll and resistance.

The film’s first half basically covers all the expected beats of a stalker-thriller, but Jordan amplifies everything for his closing act, which finds Greta morphing into a modern-day mash-up of Hannibal Lecter and Annie Wilkes, which is downright chilling in its execution.

If you skipped Greta during its brief theatrical run, don’t let it escape you now that it’s on home media and VOD.

A Record of Sweet Murder (Unearthed Films, 86 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): A Record of Sweet Murder, an inspiring Japanese-Korean import, starts off so strong and so affecting that I was ready to make room on the shelf of my most-favorite films for a new addition.

A Record of… is unlike most Korean horror flicks in that its very linear with the story its telling, and it presents solid characterizations of its three principal leads (a Korean TV journalist, her Japanese cameraman and a Korean serial killer).

The killer, Sangjoon (Je-wook Yeon) and the journalist, Soyeon (Kkobbi Kim), were classmates during childhood just before a tragedy separated them. Years later, Sangjoon is a wanted fugitive who is accused of murdering nearly two-dozen people. He calls Soyeon for an exclusive interview, but only at a place of his choosing and only if she brings with her a cameraman born in Japan.

A Record of… is all about the details early on, which is a big reason why it hooked me. Sangjoon isn’t some crazed thrill-kill villain. He believes that God is directing him to commit a specific number of atrocities in order to atone for a sin from his past, which in turn will resurrect someone that both he and Soyeon knew, and then bring back all the people he's killed.

To that end, Sangjoon sees signs in unusual places, like the personal ads of a local newspaper. His efforts to convince Soyeon that the coincidences he’s explaining are real get an added boost once they start becoming true.

The problem, if there is one, is that A Record of Sweet Murder builds to such an early peak that it proves almost impossible to sustain its own ambitious pace, and once a second couple is introduced to the mix, the story basically begins to fall apart.

Still, despite not realizing its full potential, this is still an excellent thriller packed with bloody, brutal action that is sure to electrify fans of Korean cult cinema.

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