Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chin gei bin / The Twins Effect (Hong Kong, 2003)


Here's a brainless but fun piece of Hong Kong fluff that will keep you giggling as it breezes along. The Twins Effect is a good example of perfectly produced if slightly (and typically) schizophrenic Hong Kong mainstream product that is liberally peppered with attractive stars (both male and female), exciting fight scenes, fun gags and great visuals. Compliments to the directorial duo Dante Lam and Donnie Yen – the latter whom is better known as an actor in such films as The Holy Virgin Versus the Evil Dead (1991 / trailer), Once Upon a Time in China II (1992 / trailer), Satan Returns (1996 / trailer), Blade II (2002 / trailer), Shanghai Knights (2003 / trailer) and Seven Swords (2005 / trailer) – for making a film that is so entertaining that viewers happily check in their brain 10 minutes into the movie and overlook a wide variety of decidedly odd twists and flaws in the plot and some truly old-school sexist attitudes. (We, for one, have never met a woman who happily ironed our wrinkled shirts as a token of love.)
To clarify something that will cause any uninformed Western viewer to scratch their head throughout the movie, the title of the move – The Twins Effect – really has nothing to do with the movie, so don't go looking for twins, vampiric or otherwise. The title is simple a marketing ploy: it refers to the two lead nubile females in the movie, Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, who are not twins in real life (they aren't even related) but performed together as a popular Hong Kong pop duo named Twins. (This movie, by the way, is the third of thirteen films they appeared in together between 2002 and 2007.)
It must be said, Jackie Chan's appearance is likewise an obvious marketing ploy: his sequences may be short and sweet and undeniably highly enjoyable – especially the one in which he faces off some vampires on a speeding ambulance – but he is not only worked into the plot arbitrarily and artificially, he also disappears just as quickly as he appears. But, hell, who cares? He's fun while he's there, and this film is definitely not meant to be taken seriously. (And, as always, his stunts are a total thrill.)
The Twins Effect is a vampire film, but as such it owes absolutely nothing to the traditional hopping vampires of Chinese legend – see Mr. Vampire (1985 / trailer), Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters (2002 / trailer) or even The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974 / trailer) – and everything to TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was entering its final season the year The Twins Effect was released. Not only are the main characters young, good-looking hipster vampire hunters, but the vampires walk and talk and plan and fight instead of jumping inexorably forward, and when staked they dissolve into that puff of black CGI dust so familiar from the TV show. Likewise, as so often in Buffy – and as later became the core plot device in the current Twilight franchise – the love between a good, non-killing vampire and a mortal plays a central role in the events. But for all the obviousness of the source material, the film's fight scenes, it must be said, are 100% pure kinetic Hong Kong gravity-defying fun.
The Twins Effect opens with a nifty fight scene in a train station in which the hunter Reeve (Ekin Cheng of Tokyo Raiders [2000 / trailer], Forest of Death [2007 / trailer], Rule Number One [2008 / trailer] and Re-cycle [2006 / trailer]) faces off against a trainload of vampires and loses his third assistant – a death you never actually see happen (one minute she's kicking and slashing, the next he's carrying off her body). He's sent a new dizzy assistant, Gypsy (Twin Gillian Chung of 49 Days [2006 / trailer]), and between their missions that she invariably screws up she falls in love with him; Reeve's sister Helen (Twin Charlene Choi of Diary [2006 / trailer]) doesn't like Gypsy much at first – which leads to a great rooftop fight over a teddy bear – but after Helen falls in love with the good, non-killing vampire Prince Kazaf (Edison Chen of The Grudge 2 [2006 / trailer]), who lives in a church and sleeps in a high-tech coffin, the two bond. But damn! There's this evil Occidental vampire Duke Dekotes (Mickey Hardt of Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon [2004 / trailer] and Max Havoc: Ring of Fire [2006 / trailer]) out stealing the life essence of the vampire royals so as to be able to open the ancient vampiric holy book "Day for Night" so as to bring destruction upon mankind, and not only is Kazaf the last royal Dekotes has to go, but Kazaf has the book...
One does wonder why Reeve is only sent female assistants when he so obviously views them as inferior vampire hunters – and, indeed, for most of the film, the actions of the girls seem to prove him right, though during the big showdown they suddenly have fighting abilities that outdo everyone's up to that point. But, of course, seeing that the film is the Twins' film, it is logical that they should save the day at the end. There are a few surprising deaths in the film, to say the least, but little time is spent on mourning so as not to scratch the fun sense of naivety and cheesiness – and we wouldn't want to do that now, would we?
To truly enjoy The Twins Effect, the film should be taken for what is: pure fluff. Come looking for a "real" horror film or even anything mildly intelligent, you'll go away pissed off, but if you pop it into your DVD player expecting pretty girls and great fight scenes and oddball laughs and an easy two hours of brainless entertainment, you'll enjoy the movie as much as we did.
The Twins Effect, by the way, was followed by a "sequel" the next year, as the film's ending logically would lead the viewer to expect. But oddly enough, The Twins Effect II has absolutely no connection to do with this film, other than that it stars the Twins and features Jackie Chan in a guest appearance. Instead of the 21st century and vampire hunters, The Twins Effect II is a Wuxia fantasy costume sock-'em-chop-'em flick set in some ancient land. (In other words, it is less a sequel than more commercial exploitation of names and faces.) The total lack of connection is probably why, for the English-language DVD release, the name The Twins Effect II was dumped in favor of Blade of Kings.
Trailer to The Twins Effect II: Blade of Kings:

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