Double Dare Movie Review

A well-meaning and informative documentary about Hollywood's unsung stuntwomen, Double Dare is lucky enough to have a pair of charismatic women at its heart, but fails to look deep into the industry, preferring to follow its two stars around and see what they get into. Fortunately these ladies are pretty fun to tag along with, so the relative lack of more background is not necessarily missed.

The ranks of stuntwomen are pretty thin - one scene at a meeting of their union seems to show about a dozen members, tops - but filmmaker Amanda Micheli found two of the group's icons, Jeannie Epper and Zoë Bell, who serve as sort of bookends for the industry's last couple decades, as they were both the stuntwomen for iconic female TV action stars. In the 1970s, Epper did stunts for Lynda Carter on Wonder Woman (astonishingly campy scenes from which are included here), while Bell was hired at the age of 18 to be Lucy Lawless' stuntwoman on Xena: Warrior Princess. It's one of the film's primary attractions that, besides simply being icons, both Epper and Bell are intensely animated, engaging and likeable people, whom it's nearly impossible not to root for.

The film starts at critical junctures in both women's lives, as Epper, getting up into her 50s in an industry not known for its love of aging women, is struggling to find work. This constant grind is a rough fact that Double Dare drives home with authority: one would think that given Epper's resume - besides Wonder Woman, she's worked in over 100 films, and doubled for everyone from Kathleen Turner to Cybill Shepherd - she wouldn't still have to get out there and hustle. She even comes from a family famous for its stuntpeople (Spielberg talks about how in a big fight scene from 1941, there were numerous Eppers flying across the screen at any given moment). But there she is, calling around for work and even thinking about whether she needs to get liposuction.

Bell is somewhat of a different story. Still pretty young when Xena wraps production, Bell takes her spunky self (athletic physique, tomboy daring, thousand-watt smile, and all) from her native New Zealand to Hollywood, looking for a job. There she meets Epper, who becomes almost like a surrogate mother to the striving up-and-comer. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that when, after Epper and Bell go to a high-fall stunt workshop (where one well-placed shot shows just how terrifying a seemingly routine high fall stunt can be) and meet a stunt scout for Quentin Tarantino, who's putting together a little movie called Kill Bill, that big things are in Bell's future.

Preferring, not surprisingly, to focus on its leads and leave most of the history and mechanics of their profession to others, Double Dare is nevertheless a charming piece of work that, if nothing else, shows how far a couple of well-trained and utterly fearless women can get in a man's industry.


Comments

Double Dare Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 2004

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