DOUBLE TAKE

PG-13
Reviews

From the producer who gave you Face/Off, here comes another identity-exchange action picture, Double Take. Too bad Hollywood heavyweight David Permut didn't re-team with director John Woo for what Disney is calling a 'Trading Places for the new millennium.' Instead, writer-director George Gallo (29th Street) offers a by-the-numbers story, loosely based, as he admits, on Graham Greene's Across the Bridge (filmed in 1957). The new version stars Orlando Jones as Daryl Chase, a successful black investment banker who is framed for laundering millions on behalf of a Mexican drug cartel. Though innocent, Daryl's predicament forces him to leave New York and head for Mexico, where he is promised sanctuary by an FBI agent, McCready (Gary Grubbs). Along the way, Daryl trades places with Freddy Tiffany (Eddie Griffin), an obnoxious small-time crook who is also black, in order to elude both the police and the dangerous criminals who are after him. But, as his journey progresses, Daryl slowly realizes that no one is as they seem: Freddy is actually the FBI agent and McCready is one of the drug traffickers. Other people Daryl once knew also reveal their secret identities before all the baddies are rounded up and either arrested or killed.

The familiar plot gets its biggest lift from episodes that only slow it down, mainly the racially charged comic routines of Jones and Griffin. In one, Daryl parodies the smart-talking Freddy by creating a fuss over the lack of malt liquor aboard the train they are traveling. In another, the duo compete at a road rest stop to see who can perform a better hip-hop routine (a sequence spoiled by the reflection of the camera and crew in a glass window). Griffin also spices up the dialogue with his gauche but pointed rejoinders: 'There's not going to be any Rodney Kings going on,' he tells some hostile white police officers at one point. Griffin also uses the 'n' word a lot.

But much of the racial-social satire becomes ineffectual as the production continues to plug consumer products. (Freddie wears several different Addidas outfits and carries an Addidas bag). By the time the story gets stalled in Texas, the ads are actually integrated into the plot: Pepsi, Fiji Water and Mother's Cookies all play a part. Not surprisingly, Jones made his mark with a certain soft-drink commercial and Griffin's last starring role was in the appropriately titled Foolish.

A white Chihuahua also gets a key role and almost steals the show, which isn't hard to do. Double Take is not quite a dog of a movie, but it's certainly not worth barking about.

--Eric Monder