"That rich guy from Pretty Woman and the skinny dude from That '70s Show arrive at a crime scene." Doesn't that sound like the beginning of an excellent joke? Well, it kind of is. The Double is meant to be a pulse-quickening espionage thriller, but comes off as more of a B+ second semester screenwriting project. Co-writer/director Michael Brandt wrote 2007's 3:10 To Yuma remake, showing that his work can be tense and compelling, but little of that makes it to the screen here.
I don't mean to detract from the stature of the actors. Richard Gere and Topher Grace don't need defending from me--even though the former has a more consistent track record and wider range, both are entertaining. Technically, they should be good together in a film that requires them to do a metaphorical dance while searching for an internationally renowned killer. The only problem is that in a movie like this, you should be able to almost taste the intensity between the two--and what they muster in this film feels as phony as the aspartame in my Diet Coke.
(Slight Spoilers) I thought my Uncle Sylvester drunkenly showing his poker hand to everyone before betting took place was a bad thing--but apparently Brandt wanted to use the same approach to screenwriting plot points. First of all, this is one of those movies completely ruined by the trailer--but even if you didn't see that, it's wrecked by huge reveal 30 minutes into the film that slows whatever momentum it had to a crawl. It was so devoid of energy I couldn't focus on anything important; instead I was hyper-aware of Richard Gere's tendency to bore his dead-eyed stare into whoever he's talking to and Topher Grace's irritating voice modulations. I wasn't even cheered up by the appearance of Stephen Moyer (True Blood), and that's how you know it's serious.
I admire the attempts to avoid making this a typical huge-twist-ending film. However, the whole thing was missing oomph, which means that it might as well have been condensed into a Very Special Episode of Law and Order where they're writing off a major character. Just because Topher Grace is giving frowny face while frantically throwing around papers doesn't make it an interesting third act. Better luck next time.