Of all sequels, this is the one that should never have been made. The original Twins publicity vehicle, The Twins Effect, was not a strong enough film to warrant a sequel, which is probably why the film-makers decided to use a completely different story. Bad move. Exceedingly bad move.
The story is complicated, but not well-thought out. It doesn’t hang together, and helps to make the whole film look rather like an undergraduate effort: full of grand ideas rendered hastily and with no regard for consistency. Since consistency was one of the saviours of the original film, this bodes badly.
One victim of this bad boding is the acting. Lordy lordy, what a hodgepodge. Donnie Yen does his trademark action man hero, with little dialogue. Daniel Wu does his trademark crazed villain, with a side order of getting his gear off, as he so often does, although usually in scenes that don’t jar quite as wildly with his character. Jackie turns up for an extended fight scene. Edison Chen pops up as a thespian thief who gets dispatched early on. Tony Leung is shamefully misused as the master of a travelling show: he’s excellent at comedy, but gets no chance to shine here.
The Twins, of course, give their usual pert and sassy Canto-teen performances, apparently unaware that they’re playing tough action heroines. Chen Bo Lin, an up and coming Taiwanese actor who’s appeared in Blue Gate Crossing and About Love, has the unenviable task of portraying chief sidekick, and foil for Charlene Choi. And poor Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie, stumbles woefully through his first film role in a manner that earned him a Golden Durian for Poor Career Decisions in the 3rd Annual Golden Durian awards.
There are just so many cringe-worthy moments it’s hard to name them all. One image that will persist for a long time, despite all my efforts, is Daniel Wu in his Evil Sorcerer costume, which for some reason includes a black hat sporting large bunny ears. I kid you not. And the wicked queen, apparently a man-hater, still wears an astounding amount of makeup, not to mention requiring her guards to wear purple armour with what appear to be coconuts glued on the front. Some wear heels. Crack troops, I imagine.
I’ll glide over the socio-political aspects, such as the patently ludicrous ‘fact’ of this repressive society being only a few years old, yet everyone behaves as though it’s been around for centuries. That would be a rant that would last far too long. I’ll gloss, too, over how feeble The Twins appear in their wire-augmented (and CGI-enhanced) fight scenes. I’ll grumble only briefly about the fact that the heavy use of wires made the least possible use of Jackie’s unique skills in stunts and hand-to-hand fights. A tragic waste, but the Jackie-Donnie fight lasted for only five minutes or so, which wasn’t a large slice of time to be grumbling.
What makes me thoroughly indignant is that Yuen Kwai, the director, is responsible for some of the best of classic kung fu films. For heaven’s sake, the man made Fong Sai Yuk, which is legendary in kung fu film circles. How could he lend himself to such a dog’s breakfast? Has he no shame? Well, apparently not.
Even the CGI and background art look shabby. I suppose we’re just lucky that they used real desert, and didn’t just shake some gravel over the studio floor. But I must confess that the penultimate battle, in which The Twins, bewitched by evil Daniel Wu, attack their erstwhile boyfriends, was a bit of a giggle. Perhaps it was because, as Chen Bo Lin was trying to destroy the magically conjured hawk that controlled the girls, Charlene Choi was replicating the fate of the bird. Chen throws a cloth over the bird and grapples it to the ground, the flying Charlene drops several feet, arms and legs bent to give an impression of the Chinese character for ‘exit’. Chen repeatedly thwapping the cloth-wrapped bundle against a handy pillar, Charlene repeatedly flung (by Unseen Forces) against a wall, to much comic effect.
But I swear I’ll not watch another of these things: if any fool ever attempts a Twins Effect 3, I’ll force it onto someone else. I’ve done my duty.