Twin Dragons

Of all the post 1980 films in Jackie Chan’s catalog, Twin Dragons seems to receive the most disdain – and it is often dismissed with terms such as “lame”, “crap” and a “joke”. It was released in the American theaters in March of 1999 and it certainly did not do well and many Chan fans were upset that this film was chosen to be released with so many of his classics still on the shelf. Though I am not a huge proponent of the film, I will still jump to its defense. It has its charms and is a film that gets better on each viewing in my opinion.

First of all it was put together (and directed by Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam!) as a charitable work – all the proceeds going to the HK Directors Guild – and thus perhaps one has to be a bit gentle with it. The film is primarily a comedy – with only a couple action routines within – and though the comic premise is as old as the movies – I found it to be funny at times and an easy going film to watch.

Though there are only three action set ups – all three are well done and the final one is an absolute classic. In the nightclub scene – Jackie provides some terrific moves and some excellent hand to hand combat. The boat chase has a few terrific stunts and is fairly exciting. Finally in the last twenty minutes of the film, Jackie creates an action scene that is incredibly imaginative and breathtaking. Most of it takes place in a car testing facility and Jackie utilizes the facility as an integral part of the action. In two different instances –  only perfect timing allows him to escape great bodily damage. And then there is that simple but sublime jump through the car window.

Another reason to enjoy this film is his two luminous co-stars – Maggie Cheung and Nina Li. Jackie may not always give his female co-stars much to do – but he certainly chooses lovely ones. Here Maggie and Nina are simply radiant – and both have some good comical moments.
In case you haven’t seen it, the plot revolves around two brothers separated at birth through an accident. One grows up with his wealthy parents and becomes a conductor while the other grows up on the streets of HK and becomes a car mechanic and a martial arts expert. The conductor comes to HK and the expected mix-ups occur. This sort of comedy is fairly predictable, but I must confess a weakness for it going all the way back to those old Haley Mills movies.
Boomer – the mechanic – gets pressured into helping some crooks pull off a prisoner escape – while John has to give a concert. Of course things get all switched around and Boomer ends up conducting the concert while John has to drive the get away car. There is also confusion for the two women in their lives – Maggie and Nina – as they too end up with the wrong ones. As I said previously, some of this – such as the bath scene – were quite humorous. And how often do you get to see Jackie kiss two women is a movie!
In his book Inside the Dragon, Gentry says the following “Part of the reason that Chan wanted to do this film was to experiment with special effects, using the master HK director of such, Tsui Hark. “Compared to Hollywood special effects, Twin Dragons is crap” states Chan “After that I’m totally disappointed with HK special effects. This is why I’m not going to use special effects in my films again, except from the people in Hollywood”
Another one of the pleasures of the film was the number of cameos. Here are a few that I spotted.

James Wong – father of the twins
Sylvia Chang – mother of the twins
Kirk Wong – prisoner both at the beginning and end of the film
Philip Chan – Hotel Manager
David Chiang – hotel staff
Eric Tsang – on the telephone in the hotel
Tsui Hark – playing cards in the car testing facility
Ringo Lam – ditto
John Woo – priest at end of film
Alfred Cheung – boss of gang
Lau Kar Leung – doctor in the hospital

Again I won’t profess this to be a classic Jackie Chan film – but I still prefer it to some of his more recent films such as Mr. Nice Guy or First Strike. They may have better action – but they show little of the heart that a film like Twin Dragons has.

My rating for this film: 6.5