Of all the post 1980 films in Jackie Chan’s catalog,
Twin Dragons seems to receive the most disdain – and it is often dismissed
with terms such as “lame”, “crap” and a “joke”. It was released in the
American theaters in March of 1999 and it certainly did not do well and
many Chan fans were upset that this film was chosen to be released with
so many of his classics still on the shelf. Though I am not a huge proponent
of the film, I will still jump to its defense. It has its charms and is
a film that gets better on each viewing in my opinion.
First of all it was put together (and directed
by Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam!) as a charitable work – all the proceeds going
to the HK Directors Guild – and thus perhaps one has to be a bit gentle
with it. The film is primarily a comedy – with only a couple action routines
within – and though the comic premise is as old as the movies – I found
it to be funny at times and an easy going film to watch.
Though there are only three action set ups
– all three are well done and the final one is an absolute classic. In
the nightclub scene – Jackie provides some terrific moves and some excellent
hand to hand combat. The boat chase has a few terrific stunts and is fairly
exciting. Finally in the last twenty minutes of the film, Jackie creates
an action scene that is incredibly imaginative and breathtaking. Most of
it takes place in a car testing facility and Jackie utilizes the facility
as an integral part of the action. In two different instances – only
perfect timing allows him to escape great bodily damage. And then there
is that simple but sublime jump through the car window.
Another reason to enjoy this film is his two luminous
co-stars – Maggie Cheung and Nina Li. Jackie may not always give his female
co-stars much to do – but he certainly chooses lovely ones. Here Maggie
and Nina are simply radiant – and both have some good comical moments.
In case you haven’t seen it, the plot revolves
around two brothers separated at birth through an accident. One grows up
with his wealthy parents and becomes a conductor while the other grows
up on the streets of HK and becomes a car mechanic and a martial arts expert.
The conductor comes to HK and the expected mix-ups occur. This sort of
comedy is fairly predictable, but I must confess a weakness for it going
all the way back to those old Haley Mills movies.
Boomer – the mechanic – gets pressured into helping
some crooks pull off a prisoner escape – while John has to give a concert.
Of course things get all switched around and Boomer ends up conducting
the concert while John has to drive the get away car. There is also confusion
for the two women in their lives – Maggie and Nina – as they too end up
with the wrong ones. As I said previously, some of this – such as the bath
scene – were quite humorous. And how often do you get to see Jackie kiss
two women is a movie!
In his book Inside the Dragon, Gentry says the
following “Part of the reason that Chan wanted to do this film was to experiment
with special effects, using the master HK director of such, Tsui Hark.
“Compared to Hollywood special effects, Twin Dragons is crap” states Chan
“After that I’m totally disappointed with HK special effects. This is why
I’m not going to use special effects in my films again, except from the
people in Hollywood”
Another one of the pleasures of the film was the
number of cameos. Here are a few that I spotted.
James Wong – father of the twins
Sylvia Chang – mother of the twins
Kirk Wong – prisoner both at the beginning
and end of the film
Philip Chan – Hotel Manager
David Chiang – hotel staff
Eric Tsang – on the telephone in the hotel
Tsui Hark – playing cards in the car testing
Ringo Lam – ditto
John Woo – priest at end of film
Alfred Cheung – boss of gang
Lau Kar Leung – doctor in the hospital
Again I won’t profess this to be a classic
Jackie Chan film – but I still prefer it to some of his more recent films
such as Mr. Nice Guy or First Strike. They may have better action – but
they show little of the heart that a film like Twin Dragons has.
My rating for this film: 6.5