review by Cynthia Fuchs, 12 January
ain't keepin it real!
Chase (Orlando Jones) has it all -- a fine NYC apartment, designer
suits, a prestigious job with a Wall Street Banking firm, a
runway-model girlfriend named Chloe Kitt (Garcelle Beauvais), and a
super-competent assistant (Vivica A. Fox) who anticipates his every
need. But for all his worldly goods and breezy confidence, Daryl's
got another thing coming, in the form of con man Freddy Tiffany
(Eddie Griffin). Appearing first as a sidewalk breakdancer, wearing
the requisite bright orange tracksuit and busting his moves outside
Daryl's swank condo, Freddy improbably begins popping up repeatedly
throughout the banker's well-ordered day ("This is some
easy-ass sh*t!," he exclaims, on seeing the office, "Your
fancy furniture and what-not!"). This day and Daryl's comfy
lifestyle are breaking down seriously, and according to some
familiar, if barmy, devices. By the time Daryl is assaulted by a
Mexican hitman and on the run from the NYPD, you see where this
movie is headed: the out-of-touch rich guy will get his comeuppance
at the hands of his new acquaintance.
Double Take is, for the most part, just what it looks like.
If you've seen Bad Boys, Rush Hour, Blue Streak,
or even 1988's Midnight Run (not incidentally, written by Double
Take's writer-director, George Gallo), you've seen most
everything this movie has to offer -- undercover missions and
mistaken identities, bad cops and sneering drug dealers, psycho
mafiosos and inept feds, competing egos and big guns, barely-clad
beautiful women and some more big guns. Even the "twists"
are routine: it won't surprise anyone that these nascent buddies
aren't entirely who they appear to be, and their ostensibly
unrelated dilemmas are actually closely connected.
the same time, and as its title suggests, Double Take is a
film that asks you to look again. And it does have a few tricks up
its sleeve (emphasis on few). For one thing, it has an
unlikely source. It's based on a 1957 drama starring Rod Steiger, Across
the Bridge, which was in turn based on a Graham Greene novel.
From this foundation, Double Take lifts basic plot elements,
mostly having to do with Daryl taking Freddy's identity in order to
flee to Mexico, where, he learns, Freddy is himself a wanted man.
And why is Daryl going to Mexico? Here you have to bear with the
script's many implausibilities -- after the Mexican hitman episode,
he's advised by a CIA agent named McReady (Gary Grubbs), who has
conveniently appeared to save him from the hitman, to go to Mexico.
In an understandable panic-- as he notes, he's a black man being
hunted by the cops in Manhattan -- Daryl agrees. He leaves Chloe and
his credit cards behind and tries to board a train from Penn Station
(that's right, a train to Mexico). At the station, he spots
evil-looking suits everywhere, so when he (again!) runs into Freddy,
who notes right away that Daryl looks scared: "You got the
NYPD-shoot-a-nigger-41-times-in-the-ass look!" Just so, Daryl
pleads with Mr. Streetwise to help him scam his way South. At
Freddy's suggestion, they exchange clothes and IDs, at which point
Freddy starts teaching Daryl how to walk and talk "black"
("Put a little pep in your step!"). The switch allows the
actors to imitate each other's characters: Griffin does the
Harvard-educated, suave and snooty executive, and Jones acts the
foul-mouthed, crotch-grabbing, gold-toothed fool. The switch leads
to a number of outsized comic exercises, including the challenge
that Daryl issues to a nonplussed dining car waiter, in the scene
running in the film's omnipresent ads: "What!?! No Schlitz Malt
Liquor!? You ain't representin'! You ain't keepin' it rrreeeaaal!"
in a movie that so conspicuously flouts reality -- there's really
not a reasonable plot turn or believable physical stunt in sight --
this question of keeping it real ends up being front and center.
Certainly, the question of what constitutes a genuine
"black" identity has come up a lot in mainstream movies
and tv, especially in relation to class (Livin' Large, Strictly
Business, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air were early,
notorious attempts to ask this question). In its own irreverent and
frankly preposterous way, Double Take expands the parameters
of this question, by revealing that any reality, in any culture and
any movie genre, comes down to a matter of accepted conventions.
What's "real" is what's believed and accepted at the
moment, usually by the people with the power to enforce what they
believe. The point that Double Take makes is this: once you
throw the conventions out the window, all bets are off. And then
anything can pass for real, even Freddy's patently absurd
interpretations of events and unlikely master-spy abilities.
is not to say that Double Take holds together as anything
resembling a realistic film. It does not. Irreverent and silly, it
careens between being a not-very-suspenseful thriller and a broadly
slapstick comedy, piling up all the usual action scenes, including
the car chase, the shoot-out, the exploding truck, the assault by a
team of sweaty, mustachioed Mexican border guards (though I will say
that, compared to the last two U.S. movies I've seen set in Mexico, Traffic
and All the Pretty Horses, Double Take may be least
offensive regarding such stereotypes, precisely because it is so
hyper-conscious of them as stereotypes). Double Take
accelerates these predictable moments until they reach a kind of
hyper-real warp speed (Malcolm Campbell's editing in these scenes is
breakneck) and sets them to an appropriately bizarre, wha-wha
'70s-style score by Graeme Revell.
the center of all this ruckus are the entirely unbelievable
protagonists, whom Jones and Griffin more or less keep afloat by
sheer force of will and a decent chemistry between them. While Jones
has obvious mainstream appeal (even if you are sick to death of
those obnoxious 7-Up commercials), the lesser known Eddie Griffin
may be a harder sell for a Touchstone marketing campaign -- though
again, judging by the deluge of ads, it appears they've reached a
strategy). And Griffin does some with a fanbase who love his spastic
comedy and undeniable electricity on screen, all underscored by
Jones' well-timed straight-man reactions. That all their feuding
will lead to a solid partnership is, of course, the film's foregone
conclusion. Since Daryl is the one learning the righteous lesson, to
trust his fellow black man, the film reassures viewers early on that
Freddy is worthy. In particular, he has a straight-up weird but also
adorable affection for a fluffy white doggie named Delores, who
loves him in return. Their relationship is both cute (repeated shots
of her tippy-tippying on her little toenails) and crude (repeated
occasions where she's referred to as a "bitch" or Freddy's
"little white girlfriend"), a mix that unexpectedly
humanizes Freddy, while again, demonstrating that reality is
Vivica A. Fox
PG-13 - Parents
Some material ma
be inappropriate for
children under 13