Director: Shane Stanley
Cast: Danielle C. Ryan, Dawn Olivieri, Matthew Lawrence, Kevin Joy, Andrea Logan, Mo Gallini, David Castro, Aimey Beer, Val Barri, Dmitriy Karas
Duration: 92 mins.
By Henry McKand
“What do you think this is? A Hallmark movie?
This line from last year Double threat, spoken by a cynical mob fixer, should indicate that, no, this is not a Hallmark movie. But with mediocre digital cinematography, long conversations in the car against an obvious green screen backdrop, and too-perfect C-list actors in clothes so new you can practically see the tags… it’s easy to forget. There may be a few more fight scenes here than your average made-for-TV schmaltz fest, but the straight-to-stream aesthetic puts it in roughly the same level of quality as movies with titles like A royal novel OR Festive kiss. *
The low budget alone shouldn’t scare any self-respecting action buff. Some of the most original and exciting films ever made were cobbled together with paltry budgets and failed actors. What really matters at the end of the day, regardless of poor color grading or plot holes, is the ability to deliver emotion. If you’re after the hidden genre gems of 2022, there’s a chance you’ve heard of Double threat. It’s the kind of micro-budget thriller designed for bored late-night Amazon Prime browsers or more dedicated action completionists. But pressing play on any movie with an iMDB rating of less than 5 and words like “double” and “menace” entered in the title like madlibs is always a gamble no matter how dedicated you are. So it does Double threat deliver?
The plot certainly has potential. Jimmy (Matthew Lawrence) is on his way to scatter his brother’s ashes when he becomes drawn into the violent world of a mysterious criminal named Natasha (Danielle C. Ryan) after a bloody convenience store robbery. To add some extra juice, Natasha is revealed to have split personality disorder. “Nat” is sweet and goofy while “Tasha” is a martial arts master and all-around daredevil. He soon gets to know both versions of her as they try to escape the mob.
It’s a pretty funny premise, and the split personality angle should be interesting. The problem is, “Nat” and “Tasha” aren’t very easy to tell apart. These two personalities speak and emit almost identically, and the other characters also take some time to figure out who they are talking to. A good twenty minutes pass before it becomes clear to the viewer that there are even two personalities. The most obvious sign is that “Tasha” tends to smile and pull her hair back into a ponytail when things get dangerous. It’s hard to know whether to blame the acting or the script, but it’s a problem that persists right up to the final scene.
To their credit, director Shane Stanley and screenwriter CJ Walley (who both directed similarly under-the-radar 2020 equalize) understand that the focus should be on the relationship between the two leads, and there’s real chemistry between Jimmy and Natasha. The unnecessary subplots and filler scenes that so often make their way into this type of film are, for the most part, absent. Indeed, the other notable characters come in the form of villains: the cocky son of a mob boss (Kevin Joy) and the aforementioned mob fixer (Dawn Olivieri) assigned to babysit him. Their dynamic gives the film its few moments of real humor, even though their scenes together almost exclusively take place in moving cars.
YES, Double threat harks back to a beloved cinematic tradition of B-crime: hardened criminals trading heated jokes as they drive. Even without the obvious green screen, the film overdoses on these relaxed scenes, and what should have the immediacy of a car chase instead feels relaxed and aimless. The few chase sequences dotted around are slow and overconfident.
“Slow” and “too sure” could be used to describe most of the action, and that’s the film’s cardinal sin. One action sequence, in which Natasha must fight a group of assassins using her hands, has memorable choreography and a playful sense of humor, but every other scene is weak and generic. The gunfire was all added in post-production (if at all), and the streets and emptied warehouses that serve as a backdrop are all forgettable.
Towards the end of the film, Olivieri’s fixer has another line that recalls the film’s flaws:
“Oh, I love the setting. Dark, moody, menacing… this lingering atmosphere of complete dread.
He says this during a scene shot so blandly that it wouldn’t look out of place in a local car commercial. There is very little atmosphere, or directorial vision, to be found in any of the scenes. It’s a shame, because the actors have charm and the idea is good. Double threat it could have been a fun ride if more time had been spent fleshing out the characters and crafting fight scenes that would have left their mark. As it stands, nothing here is strong enough to scratch a serious action fix.
*These may not be real movie names, but Danielle C. Ryan and Matthew Lawrence previously starred together in 2021’s Hallmark-lite Mistletoe Exchangeso there’s a good chance the “Hallmark” line is more self-aware than it gives credit for.
Henry McKeand rating: 4/10