Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TWIN DRAGONS (1999) - 3/5 stars

Release: 1992 (Hong Kong), 1999 (America)
Director: Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark
Writer: Barry Wong, Tsui Hark, Joe Cheung, Wong Yik
Cast: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Philip Chan, Alfred Cheung, Guy Lai
Soundtrack: Lowell Lo, Barrington Pheloung (rescored for America)
Claim to fame: Jackie Chan's version of the "twins" action movie (see also: Jean Claude Van Damme's "Double Impact")
Rating: 3/5 stars

This is not a shining example of a 90's Jackie Chan flick but bear in mind that the whole reason "Twin Dragons" was made was to benefit the Director's Guild in Hong Kong, with the goal of generating enough money to build a new headquarters...a headquarters which was never actually built, despite the film being a big hit in Hong Kong.

The movie is Jackie's take on the whole action movie subgenre that involves one star posing as twins via splitscreen. "Double Impact" starring Jean Claude Van Damme (and Jean Claude Van Damme?) is probably the most famous. There's also "Dead Ringers" with Jeremy Irons as twin gynecologists but...wait, that's not an action movie. Nevermind. Now nobody really likes this kinds of movies but they seemed to be big during the early 90's, which makes sense since the 90's was all about "if something's good, why settle with one?" See also: the Double Mint twins.


"Twin Dragons" seeks to answer the age old question:

are two Jackie's better than one?

Now you'd expect a Jackie Chan movie co-directed by Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam to be utterly mind-blowing, considering that between the two of them they've directed at least a dozen of the best Hong Kong action flicks ("Peking Opera Blues," "Time & Tide" for Hark and "Full Contact," "City on Fire" for Lam). Unfortunately, everybody involved in this production kinda feels on autopilot.

In cases like this, the two directors usually don't work together. Most likely that Hark directed pieces of the movie and then edited those together with the sections Lam directed. Thus, the film it is wildly uneven in tone, transitioning between the hard-hitting Jackie Chan action you'd expect and wacky sex comedy.


Gun to the head vs.


sex farce

I've heard some who are up on their Hong Kong movie trivia claim that "Twin Dragons" was ghost directed by John Woo as well, which I'm inclined to believe given some of the stylistic flourishes here and there. Again that doesn't necessarily translate to the movie being as awesome as you'd hope.


Bear in mind that the movie was cut by at least 11 minutes and redubbed by Dimension Films, with Jackie participating in the dub. Something definitely seems amiss here, as the always beautiful Maggie Cheung receives second billing and yet in the American edit she's barely in the movie at all.


If only the movie were as bad-ass as some of these screengrabs look

There are at least two great action sequences here: an early fight scene at a karaoke bar, with Jackie Chan dodging a plate of glass from a coffee table being swung at his face


Coffee table of death!

and the ending setpiece in a car testing facility. This last scene is unbelievable, with Jackie running atop speeding cars and almost being fried alive in a heat room. It's probably worth the price of admission alone.



If nothing else, the last 20 minutes set in an auto testing facility

will leave a big grin plastered on the faces of martial arts fans

Just be warned that inbetween scattered fight scenes you've got a lot of "twin hijinks," with Jackie as two twin brothers who frequently switch places - and inadvertently switch women.

As such, this is probably not the most kid-friendly Jackie Chan movie out there, considering a lot of the humor during the second half is of a sexual nature. When I first saw this I was about 13 and even I was like, "Jackie, what's with the Austin Powers shtick?" What that in mind, I'd recommend "First Strike" if you're looking to introduce some young'uns to Jackie's filmography.

"Twin Dragons" is for Chan fanatics and completists only.


When it comes to perilous stunts, it's almost always a close call with Jackie

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