Years before names like Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, and Timo Tjahjanto were gaining global acclaim for pushing the boundaries of violent action cinema in films such as THE RAID: REDEMPTION and THE NIGHT COMES FOR US, folks like actor Barry Prima and film directors Ackyl Anwari and Arizal were among those carrying the flag for Indonesian action cinema from the 1970s through the 1990s. Typically marked by manic energy, ruthless villains, righteous heroes, and impressive (though, at times, seemingly unsafe) action sequences, the best of Indonesia’s 1980s action cinema compares favorably to region-and-era combinations like Italy’s 1970s Euro-crime output, or American b-movies of the 1980s (e.g., Cannon Films) and 1990s (e.g., PM Entertainment).
Over the years, wider recognition of Arizal’s name has grown by leaps and bounds as genre-loving podcasters and film bloggers have celebrated his work, especially those films made for the international market starring lead actors like Christopher Mitchum and Peter O’Brian. The 1989 action-crime film DOUBLE CROSSER – known in Germany as CROCODILE CAGE – would mark Arizal’s third and final production with New Zealand-born O’Brian, though it was this duo’s first and only collaboration with crocodiles.
No longer content to simply boast one of the world’s greatest private art collections, a wealthy and unscrupulous drug-trafficking magnate, Foster (Didier Hamel), is aggressively expanding his underground kickboxing racket and sums it up by noting, “To organize a fight is a big deal and brings me lots of happiness and the survivor can be used as a professional fighter.” Right. As of late, he has set his eyes on Jack (Peter O’Brian), an unemployed former private investigator, a widower, a doting father to his visually-impaired daughter, Fiona (Kiki Amir), and a total fighting machine. Jack kickboxes for health and recreation but also to keep his skills sharp for work as hired muscle, often training with his brother-in-law, Leo (Ricky Hosada), at their local gym (aptly named the “Golden Roller Boogie”). With his right-hand man, Baron (August Melasz), helping to orchestrate his plan, Foster aims to ensnare both men in his fight scheme and ride the profits to regional dominance. And he’ll do absolutely anything to force both men to submit to his demands.
To this date, I have seen just four Arizal films – a small sampling given his 58-title filmography across a 20-year career – but I regret to report that for me, DOUBLE CROSSER is probably the fourth best of those entries. Most of my perspective is informed by the lofty and perhaps unrealistic standards set by THE STABILIZER, FINAL SCORE, and LETHAL HUNTER. All of them had dynamic action sequences and dangerous, unflinching stunt-work along with despicable villains and a rough-and-ready production quality (including clumsy but earnest English-language dubbing). DOUBLE CROSSER shares some of the traits from those films, but in smaller volume and with less frequency.
Made with frequent screenwriting collaborator, Deddy Armand – they teamed up 14 times! – this is a *slightly* lesser Arizal joint that instead emphasizes the story’s character dynamics and plot twists, as the villain’s misdeeds and acts of trickery create tension and confrontation between the two lead actors. That said, the evil Foster does almost none of his own dirty work; in the role, Didier Hamel lacks the physical qualities of the antagonistic heavies seen in other Arizal films (think Mike Abbott in FINAL SCORE or Craig Gavin in THE STABILIZER). That’s not really his fault, but there’s something to be said for casting the right sort of performer opposite a lead actor like Peter O’Brian whose better qualities are physicality and an imposing look.
In the role of Jack, O’Brian is as good as ever. His reactive facial expressions during the action sequences help to sell the intensity and urgency of the circumstances — I dare say his sneering is Sly Stallone-level — and he cranks the emotions up during more dramatic scenes where his personal strife with Leo reaches a boiling point. In the latter role, Ricky Hosada is capable and likeable, and he has the fighting skills to put his character on equal ground with his brother-in-law. They work well as a team and they’re just as good as rivals, even if the script doesn’t build the latter scenario in the most logical way, though it should be noted that any scene featuring the head villain chilling poolside and instigating a fight between two caged scorpions is an ace metaphor and clever foreshadowing.
As this is an Arizal film from the 1980s, one familiar with his work would rightly expect heaps action, and on that front the maestro delivers. The film opens with a night-time drug deal double-cross, punctuated by an exploding high-rise building. There’s kickboxing galore, a bar brawl, and multiple other instances of hand-to-hand combat, including one sequence where a first-date montage at an amusement park is interrupted by a baddie attacking Jack and his companion in a sky-tram cable car. There are medium-paced car chases along with demolition-derby-style crashes, and Jack flying an ultralight aircraft and then making a harrowing attempt to hijack a semi-trailer truck. And of course: guns, guns, guns. The sound effects are splattery, chunky, and exaggerated throughout to supplement the visuals. If there’s a critique to be made, it’s that the film lacks a real pièce de résistance in the mold of the climactic exploding helicopter scene from FINAL SCORE or even the climactic exploding helicopter scene from THE STABILIZER. After some reflection, I guess my only gripe is that there’s no exploding helicopter. This film does have crocodiles, though.
For as much attention as Arizal gets, and rightfully so, there’s an absolute treasure trove of 1970s and 1980s Indonesia action cinema out there to keep your appetite for cinematic adrenaline and blood-lust satiated. While DOUBLE CROSSER might not be the most entertaining of Arizal’s work nor the best starting point for the uninitiated, it remains a very enjoyable b-movie romp that would play well with a crowd.