Double Dare

Stuntmen and stuntwomen deserve much more recognition. By their very nature, they are doing a great job when nobody notices them. They need to double for stars in such a way that it looks like the star is the one doing the stunt, and do it safely. Robin Shou tried to make a movie honoring the Hong Kong stuntmen, but Red Trousers is better left ignored. And while safety is an issue for both genders, women have a much harder time, since men have an easier time hiding padding in pants and shirts. Action movies demand that women wear little to no clothes, which means little to no padding. Double Dare is an engaging documentary from Amanda Micheli (Just for the Ride), and takes a look at the two stuntwomen at different points in their careers, and manages to throw in a wealth of related information. Double Dare works because her two primary interviewees, Jeannie Epper and Zoe Bell, come across as genuinely friendly and fun people to be around.

The Epper name is legendary in Hollywood stunt circles, and Jeannie Epper (Criminal, Kill Bill Vol. 2) stands proudly at the forefront. She has decades of experience, and, at the time of this production, was nearly sixty yet still working. Nevertheless, Epper realizes that she needs to be more careful, and is trying to make a transition between someone who does the stunts to somebody who arranges them. She acts as a mother hen of sorts, a matriarch of a small but growing number of stuntwomen. She campaigns for higher visibility and increased opportunity. Bell finds herself out of a job with the cancellation of Xena: Warrior Princess. She decides to make the move to Los Angeles, to test the waters in a budding career. It is there she meets Epper. Bell (Catwoman, Kill Bill Vol. 2) is wonderfully outgoing. She is vibrant, fresh, and devoid of any sort of cynicism that Hollywood provides. Rejection is inevitable, and Epper worries that if Bell takes it personally, she will never cut it in Hollywood.

Bell is the heart and soul of Double Dare. She gives an outsider's glimpse into the stunt world of Hollywood, and clearly loves the work she does. Bell has a bubbly, infectious personality that literally has her bouncing off the walls. Micheli films some of her auditions, and even when Bell falls, she is still laughing and smiling. At the same time, Micheli shows a very vulnerable side to Bell, very disappointed when she doesn't land her first job. In effect, she humanizes Bell, and anybody watching who cannot identify or sympathize with her surely has a no emotion at all. It was very fortunate that Bell found Epper, and even more fortuitous for Micheli to capture the two on film. Epper sees Bell's talent, and takes her in like a daughter.

Double Dare has that winning combination of good luck and good research. Bell and Epper were very good choices, and the things Micheli was able to capture provide a good range on what can happen, both good and bad. Micheli also adds a lot of context, providing a brief history of stuntmen and women, as well as a lot of fascinating related material (union meetings, tryouts…). Epper doubled for Lynda Carter in the old Wonder Woman series, and Bell doubled for Xena's Lucy Lawless, and both happily provide gushing (but well deserved) remarks for their counterparts. These actors know that a portion of their success is due to their stuntwomen. And Micheli adds some serious credibility by snagging quick interviews with Quentin Tarantino, and even better, Steven Spielberg.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 21 minutes, Not Rated but contains some language, probably a PG-13 or R.

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