- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2001

I had hoped to like "Double Take" more.

Unfortunately, writer-director George Gallo's film wastes a neat title along with the talents of cagey young comic actor Orlando Jones. It also belabors race comedy sprinkled with picaresque and blithely deceptive attributes.

Mr. Gallo made an appealing first feature, "29th Street," several years ago after earning some Hollywood leverage as the screenwriter of the popular "Midnight Run." Then his second feature, a small-town farce called "Trapped in Paradise," was calamitous. I thought he had earned the right to rebound from it more promptly than the movie industry did.

"Double Take" intends for both the audience and the hero, Mr. Jones as a suave New York investment banker named Daryl Chase, to be teased by repeated games of "Who do you trust?"

On what appears at first glance to be an auspicious day, Daryl is robbed and then advised of suspicions surrounding a major client. This client is a Mexican tycoon whose latest deposit smacks of laundered drug money.

Daryl's secretary turns up as a murder victim, a misfortune poorly authenticated in a sequence in which ragged execution becomes a harbinger of slip-ups and miscalculations.

During a train journey to the Southwest, a supposedly fugitive Daryl is shadowed or hounded by possible felons and possible minions of the law, notably a pest who calls himself Freddy Tiffany and purports to be an FBI agent. Portrayed by Eddie Griffin, Freddy functions as an aggressively witty Mutt to Daryl's sardonic, mocking Jeff, who is given ample reason to doubt the good faith of everyone he encounters while on the lam.

Daryl and Freddy switch identities, along with wardrobes, while thrown together as train passengers in a gag that clearly defies credibility. Mr. Jones seems to be at least a half-foot taller than his co-star and possesses significantly longer limbs.

Mr. Gallo seems to think the men could be mistaken for each other, at least by a conductor played by Frank Pesce, whose life provided the subject matter for "29th Street." In addition to playing an oblivious minor role, Mr. Pesce shares co-producer credit on "Double Take." Alas, he has not been a lucky charm for Mr. Gallo.

Freddy, who prides himself on motormouth street slang, must try to posh up his vocabulary while simulating Daryl, whose play becomes mimicking Freddy's argot. Mr. Jones proves far more proficient at stooping to vernacular than Mr. Griffin does in groping for elevated glibness, but I'm not sure the implications are clear to the filmmaker. The sense of the entertainment is that it would be culturally criminal to resist Mr. Griffin's race-conscious antics. Viewed objectively, Mr. Jones seems in the stronger position for being able to take them or leave them.

The movie begins with a tongue-in-cheek allusion to Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil." Mr. Gallo stages a countdown-to-murder prologue on the same Venice, Calif., streets that supplied Mr. Welles with his principal, distinctively tawdry urban setting. The borrowing is even concluded cleverly with a muffled echo of the Welles' murder gimmick: explosive, but not explosive in the way one expects. Maybe a sustained parody of "Touch of Evil" would have gotten Mr. Gallo and his cast further than this cross-country rattletrap.

1 and 1/2 out of four stars

TITLE: "Double Take"

RATING: PG-13 (occasional profanity and comic vulgarity, including gratuitous sexual vulgarity; fleeting racial epithets and graphic violence in a largely farcical context)

CREDITS: Written and directed by George Gallo. Cinematography by Theo Van De Sande. Production design by Stephen Lineweaver. Costume design by Sharen Davis. Stunt coordinator: Joel Kramer. Music by Graeme Revell.

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes

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