Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Twins Effect - review

The Twins Effect

Director: Dante Lam & Donnie Yen

Release: 2003

Contains spoilers

A few things to note about this film, this is a Hong Kong vampire movie, however unlike such films as Mr Vampire (1985), this is not a typical Chinese vampire story, the vampires being more Western in style. Secondly the review is of the Hong Kong version, which is slightly longer than the UK version and was released under the title “The Vampire Effect”. Final thing to note, is that there are no twins in the film, the title refers to the two leading actresses, Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, who were in a canto-pop duo called the Twins.

The film starts in a near deserted train station at night. Two people watch the platform from above, Reeve (Ekin Cheng) and Lila (Josie Ho). Bats fly into the station and Reeve drinks something from a vial, telling Lila to wait for him – as dangerous work is a man’s work – he jumps down to the platform and boards a train which has pulled up. Lila is attacked in the balcony area as Reeve starts fighting hordes of vampires on the train. Interestingly the vampires dust, much like those in Buffy or the Blade movies (1998 - 2004). Eventually they both end up on the platform fighting a western vampire, whom we later discover is called The Duke (played with some gusto by Mickey Hardt). They do not defeat the Duke but Reeve takes his arm and it is clear that Lila is injured.

A voice-over as Reeve carries her away indicates that she has died, she was his third partner in the anti-vampire league and he loved her, he vows never to love a partner again.

Next we see a girl meet four people outside a church. She is real estate agent Miss Momoko (Mandy Chung) who hopes to rent the church to Kazaf (Edison Chen) and his servant Prada (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang). Instead they buy the place. Kazaf is a vampire Prince who will not “suck” humans. There is a scene where Momoko has some form of insect (mosquito?) on her neck and squashes it, causing an open wound. The two vampire women with Kazaf present fangs behind her back but are called back by Prada. I mention this scene because I want to quickly examine the visual differences between the good vampires and bad. Whilst not exactly consistent, all the bad vampires have mouths filled with fangs and the Duke has red eyes. The good vampires seem to have the two traditional fangs and icy blue glowing eyes. Just an interesting visual touch.

Later, in a restaurant, a man is accosted by his ex-girlfriend Helen (Charlene Choi), Kazaf becomes involved and gets Helen’s number – he is very taken with the sassy young girl. Reeve then meets his new partner at the airport, Gypsy (Gillian Chung). It happens that Helen is Reeve’s sister and she and Gypsy do not get on.

We then find out the rules of vampirism and the main storyline. The vampires cannot go out in the day, they must drink blood. The Duke has rebelled against the royal family and is stealing their essence in order to open the book “day for night”, which contains the blood of the ultimate vampire and can give daywalking abilities. Kazaf is the last Prince and has been sent the book. To fight vampires the human’s must consume vampire blood, this gives them vampire strength for about an hour and a half and then they must take an antidote, that Reeve hides as banana essence – because Helen hates bananas.

The film then goes through a series of comedy and “date movie” moments that actually work really well, as Gypsy and Reeve get to know each other – and Gypsy falls for him, and Kazaf and Helen develop their relationship. One stand-out moment is when Kazaf puts on mystical oil in order to go out in daylight to date Helen. The reason for mentioning this is because they end up gate-crashing the wedding of Jackie (Jackie Chan) in an amusing comedy moment that sees Helen giving Jackie a ring from Kazaf’s finger – the wedding ring is missing – and the ring mark setting on fire as it has no oil on it; attention to detail like this makes this movie. This is not a stand alone scene and they meet Jackie again, in his job as a paramedic – cue a Jackie Chan stunt fight comedy moment.

There is also the obligatory, it seems, hero almost turning into a vampire moment with Reeve. He looses his antidote – picking up banana essence instead. Rushing back home he and Gypsy discover that Helen has been baking banana cake (with the antidote) as Kazaf, to pass for human, has said he enjoys bananas.

The film becomes deadly serious again towards the end, with a massive wire fight. It must also be said that it is set up for a sequel and got one, kind of. Twins Effect 2 (2004) is nothing to do with the first film, being more comedic and a period piece with different characters. It seems the mainland Chinese authorities disapproved of the concept of a vampire movie – though that might just be imdb speculation.

The film has its problems. The Jackie Chan bits are good, but can feel like they were added in order to get his name in the credits. There is at least one moment of blatant product placement. Never-the-less the film manages to skilfully blend, comedy, action and romance and intermingle western style vampires in a Hong Kong movie. I’m going to give this 7.5 out of 10, but you must be prepared for a slapstick comedy with some high octane action elements. Some have said the movie looses something on the second watch, but I re-watched this for the review and still enjoyed it.

The official site is here, it is a flash page with menu’s in English but the substance in Chinese. However it does carry a couple of trailers.

The imdb page is here.

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