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A light, bright and frequently insightful look at the world of Hollywood stuntwomen, Double Dare works as both a good-natured human interest story and a canny behind-the-scenes peek at Hollywood stunt performers. It may not be the full-on history lesson that the profession truly deserves, but Double Dare does shed some light on a collection of women whose talents and contributions have gone largely under-appreciated over the years.
Our subjects are two professional stuntwomen, one at the twilight of her career and the other a fresh-faced newcomer to the industry. Jeannie Epper is the old-school pro, a woman who once doubled for Wonder Woman, and has worked for directors such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Robert Zemeckis, and John McTiernan. With over 100 movies to her credit between the years of 1965 and 2005, Jeannie Epper is like the Michael Jordan of Hollywood stuntwomen.
The spritely New Zealander known as Zoe Bell got her start doing stuntwork on Xena: Warrior Princess, and it's just as this series ends that Double Dare gets rolling. Director Amanda Micheli starts out by introducing each woman separately, but her documentary really gets rolling once Jeannie and Zoe meet up and become fast friends. So while Double Dare is a love letter to the stuntwomen of the world and an entertaining look at a generally overlooked aspect of filmmaking, it's also a Mentor & Apprentice story. Jeannie immediately takes Zoe under her wing as she introduces the newcomer to all the right stuntpeople and production coordinators, invites her along to the first ever Stuntpersons Awards ceremony, and tutors her in the fine art of free-falling.
It's at one such exercise that Zoe catches the eye of a man who works for Quentin Tarantino. Seems that the filmmaker is just about to start production on something called "Kill Bill," and he's desperately in need of young female stuntpeople ... and Zoe would be just perfect for the gig.
So while we get to watch the ever-classy Ms. Epper as her career winds down to a melancholy close, we also get to see the old pro as she helps a new talent to find her feet. It's actually quite touching, truth be told, which is part of what makes Double Dare such a disarmingly entertaining little documentary. Movie fans will have a ball with all the behind-the-scenes peeks and industry insights (courtesy of some guys called Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino, among others), women will admire Ms. Epper's trailblazing accomplishments, and the men will most likely fall just a little bit in love with Ms. Zoe Bell. (Forget stuntwork; this gal's got the face of Kate Hudson and a smile that could melt an iceberg. Someone get her a speaking role!)
One rather minor irritant is that Double Dare doesn't really delve into the old-school history of Hollywood stuntwoman as much as it could -- but I suppose that's a subject worthy of its very own documentary. As it stands, Double Dare is content to focus on its two extremely likable leads and the way their stories manage to intertwine just a bit. You'll admire Jeannie for her attitude and accomplishments; you'll adore Zoe Bell for her talent and enthusiasm; and you'll finish the flick with a newfound respect for stuntwomen in general. Not a bad way to spend 85 minutes.
Video: Fullscreen transfer, which I assume is the original aspect ratio. The film looks crisp and clear, but keep in mind that it's a fairly low-budget documentary and not a remastered Lord of the Rings DVD.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, and it sounds like a good doco should. Lots of ambient noise and chatter, but those doing the speaking are always adequately audible.
There's a seriously solid parcel of extra goodies to be found on this DVD. You'll get a loose, laid-back, and informative audio commentary from director Amanda Micheli and stuntwomen/movie subjects Jeannie Epper & Zoe Bell. The ladies frequently digress and goof around here and there, but they're also sure to bring the focus back to the film. If you enjoyed the movie, odds are you'll really dig the chat-track. Also included are no less than 16 deleted scenes, which when enjoyed through the "play all" option, total over 51 minutes! And there's some really great stuff in there!
You'll also get six extended interview segments with filmmakers Steven Spielberg & Quentin Tarantino, actors Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, and Lynda Carter, and stuntwoman Min Windle, a collection of home movies from Jeannie & Zoe, cast & crew biographies, a handful of trailers (for Double Dare and a rodeo doco called Just for the Ride), a photo gallery, and a poster gallery.
All in all a damn fine package from the folks at Capital Entertainment. This is my first review of one of their products, and I only hope they treat all their releases as well as they did Double Dare.
As far as "human interest" documentaries go, Double Dare is an absolute winner. Not all docos have to be about dead painters or the Holocaust, and it's refreshing to see a factual flick that peers behind the Hollywood backstages and brings some attention to two distinct characters like Jeannie Epper and Zoe Bell.
**Special Note to Kill Bill fans**
Between the feature presentation and the deleted scenes, this DVD offers a great little fistful of on-set footage and stuntwork preparation from both volumes of Kill Bill. Tarantino aficionados should absolutely take special note to seek out Double Dare and give the platter a solid spin.