Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:28 - Released 1/12/01

I think Double Take would have worked much better as a simple buddy comedy, without trying to have the plot of a serious thriller. While its stars, Orlando Jones and Eddie Griffin, work well together, the overly complex story line and huge cast tend to muddle the effect. This is compounded by writer/director George Gallo's attempt to cram all these elements into a 1½-hour time period — more evidence that he intended the film to be a comedy. I remember feeling the same way about the 1997 Bill Murray film The Man Who Knew Too Little: forget the intricate subplots, just let the comic do his thing.

In this extremely elaborate script by director Gallo, based on the 1957 screenplay Across the Bridge by Guy Elmes and Denis Freeman (which was itself based on the story by novelist Graham Greene), Wall Street banker Daryl Chase (Jones) finds himself caught up in an elaborate international FBI sting operation. Just after one of Chase's Mexican banking clients (Shawn Elliott) has made a questionably large deposit in his account, he meets Freddy Tiffany (Griffin), a fast-talking street hustler whom he takes as a common thief. Before long, thanks to an apparent triple murder in which Daryl is implicated, he and Freddy are on the run from the law. At Freddy's suggestion, they switch clothes (and identies) in order to allow Daryl to get on a train to Mexico, where he will be beyond the jurisdiction of the American FBI, until the situation can be worked out. This includes some amusing bits with Freddy instructing Daryl how to speak, eat, and act like he's "from the projects" instead of a wealthy, cultured banking executive.

As the story progresses, Freddy turns out to be himself an FBI agent (or so he says), assigned to protect Daryl from the bad guys. But CIA agent McCready (Gary Grubbs) tells him that Freddy is a villain, and Freddy tells him that McCready is the villain, and as Daryl makes his way to Mexico, disguised as Freddy, he begins to wonder whom he can trust. And indeed, it becomes increasingly questionable who is the villain here. Is it Freddy? Is it McCready? Is it director Gallo? Or Touchstone Pictures?

This film reminded me somewhat of the 1976 Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor film Silver Streak, which included Pryor teaching Wilder how to "act black," and which took place in large part on a train. However, that film successfully blended comedy and murder/thriller elements by not overcomplicating itself with the "who's the bad guy" scenario. There are so many double- and triple-agents in this film, one loses track. It seems as if there is an internal conflict between Gallo the writer and Gallo the director, or perhaps he just wants to have his cake and eat it too. His scenes in "thriller mode" act at cross purposes to the buddy comedy situation, causing both elements to suffer. Double Take is fun but frustrating: yet another perfect example of January fare. ***

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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