The Twins Effect

Reviewed by YTSL

Although I am one of those who has not been completely immune to the charms of da Twins (especially Ah Gil), an ability to be (convincing) action actresses is not one that I’d automatically assume that this pair of cute gals possess or can even come by with the aid of CGI and/or after training by such as Donnie Yen.  Consequently, this (re)viewer was among those who weren’t necessarily that much convinced that a vampire busting movie with them as the lead females would be a great idea.  Nevertheless, post the announcement back in May 2002 of the planned production of a summer 2003 blockbuster with precisely these stars and theme, I could not help but be drawn to check out that which turned out to also be graced by the likes of Ekin Cheng, Edison Chen, Jackie Chan, and -- most assuringly, as far as I was concerned -- an Anthony Wong who, with his three 2002 HKFA Best Supporting Actor nominations (for his work in “Infernal Affairs”, “Just One Look” and “Princess D”), has shown that he’s back in top form.

Judging from its being the year’s current top grosser -- besting Hollywood hits like “The Matrix Reloaded” and “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” along with other local efforts -- in HKSAR cinemas (as of mid July 2003), many other Hong Kong film fans have felt the same about THE TWINS EFFECT.  For their sakes, it is hoped that their reactions to this Dante Lam helmed offering are more positive than those who have damned it as a “Buffy-wannabe [that] sucks” (Ho Ai Li of the “Singapore Straits Times”) and “has everything but personality and heart” (“The South China Morning Post”’s Paul Fonoroff).  For my part, I have to thank these professional and other negative critics for their role in getting me to go into a viewing of this work with the sort of low(ered) expectations that could only have helped me to enjoy watching this fun plus entertaining movie as much as I ended up doing.
In any event, and not for the first time, I’d like to beg to differ with Mr. Fonoroff and counter-suggest that THE TWINS EFFECT does in fact contain plenty of “personality and heart”.  Indeed, I’d go so far as to opine that these attributes not being in short supply is what makes a good proportion of this fight-filled effort’s nonetheless considerable non-action moments able to be more character developing and less “pure fluff or filler” feeling than they might otherwise have come across.  Similarly, my sense is that these salient twin factors are what allowed a spirited spat over a cuddly teddy bear (that erupts between the individuals essayed by the Twins) to be as enthralling as the more extravagant scenes of combat between vampires and humans that break out in other parts of this generally well action choreographed production -- and, at the risk of sounding blasphemous(!), even the multi-weapon grudge match between Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” characters.
Although they did not feature in THE TWINS EFFECT’s pretty intense as well as fairly lengthy opening action sequence (that claimed one notable casualty in Josie Ho’s Lila character, and which Ho Ai Li actually did recognize to be “impressive”), there should be little doubt that Charlene Choi (playing Helen, the gregarious sister of Ekin Cheng’s Reeve character) and the charismatic Gillian Chung (whose Gypsy character is -- as befits her being a replacement vampire busting assistant whose immediate predecessor in the position got killed rather than voluntarily retired -- comparatively more serious, even if just as prone to be romantic plus idealistic) are the movie’s main suppliers of these elements.  Still, this is not to suggest that others of this multi-star effort’s cast members were content to stand around and let the titular duo carry that which might well be characterized as a supernatural action-romantic comedy-drama.
While Ekin Cheng and Edison Chen do have their share of detractors, my feeling is that they did fine in their THE TWINS EFFECT roles (of a suitably heroic top vampire buster named Reeve, and an endearing royal vampire who refuses to suck blood out of people -- and, instead, only drinks that which has been bottled like wine or is to be found in blood banks! -- who answers to Kazaf, respectively).  At the risk of over-defending this pair of Cantopop Idols cum actors, I’d also like to make a case here for their characters not existing in this picture only as the love interest of the lead females.  Instead, Reeve also has a salient part in establishing and providing personal as well as professional connections between more than one pair of individuals, and Prince Kazaf (who is explicably Chinese looking in light of his European familial origins) turns out to be the main reason why a bunch of Western vampires (led by Mickey Hardt’s nefarious Duke Dekotes) came to be hanging about in Hong Kong.
In contrast, the roles accorded Anthony Wong, Jackie Chan and Karen Mok in THE TWINS EFFECT are ones that might be said, at least as conceived on paper, to be largely throwaway parts.  But it says much about this trio -- and those who cast plus directed them in this often playful plus sweet natured fantasy movie -- that they managed to make their roles more substantial (or, at least, memorable).  Thus it was that: Anthony Wong’s droll Prada character proved to be an interesting, even if stereotypically faithful, servant of Prince Kazaf; Jackie Chan’s Jackie Fong character was as amusing as he was as both a harried groom and even more put upon ambulance driver; and Karen Mok could sparkle in her cameo performance as a comically inebriated as well as feisty bride at a wedding which Helen led Kazaf into gate-crashing -- in broad daylight, with unexpected consequences -- on what was effectively their first date.

My rating for the film: 8.

(Pictures obtained from the Official Twins Effect website)

A whole bunch of screen captures from the DVD

I have to admit that I had been looking forward to this film more than any other Hong Kong film this year - The Twins take on and kick vampire ass - who could want anything more! To some degree it met my expectations - The Twins are cuter than blueberry pancakes and I get a fair amount of pleasure simply wallowing in their cuteness. This is a strange hybrid of a film though - part action film, part teen idol film - and it's the second part that has a very hard time keeping up with the first. Parts of this film are very enjoyable - a large number of action set pieces that are rollicking fun - but these set pieces are surrounded by some truly awful film making and poor acting - almost painful to witness at times.

Whenever something is not moving quickly on the screen, it is close to a comotose state - watching the romance between Charlene and Edison develop is akin to having my fingernails pulled out in slow motion - the same goes for the mild flirtation between Gillian and Ekin. Much of the comedy is so low key that I wanted to turn up the volume on my TV - Edison has the pizzazz of a brown bag caught in the rain - please would someone keep him away from a camera. But these torpid moments don't really last long - they just feel like it - before some action streaks across the screen again like a naked man looking for an exit. It begins with a lengthy sequence as Josie Ho and Ekin take on a den of vampires in a train station - and it ends with a terrific fight in a church as The Twins finally team up to take on the gwielo vampires. In between there are numerous other shorter action scenes - including the enjoyable one with Jackie Chan. It all adds up to a reasonable amount of entertainment - but one can't help wishing that the director had brought a bit more oomph to his in between action scenes. Interestingly - over the end credits a few scenes play that don't show up in the film - too bad as they look rather fun - a brother/sister fight and Anthony Wong trying to take a bite out of his prospective meal!

My rating for this film: 6.5