Cutie-pie Cantopop duo Twins (sassy Charlene Choi and pouty Gillian Chung) are an Asian phenomenon. Selling records by the billions, their beaming faces grace every billboard, magazine cover and TV commercial in Hong Kong. They’re impossible to avoid – something that rubs more than a few grouchy, middle-aged, kung fu fans the wrong way. Whatever grandpa, Twins are cool. Following a handful of teen comedies, the girls achieved box office domination with this likeable action comedy. Produced by Jackie Chan’s production company, it features a starry supporting cast plus a cameo from the great man himself.
Vampires plague Hong Kong by night. A crack team of slayers swallow vials of vampire blood to acquire supernatural kung fu skills needed to combat the undead. However, they must consume an antidote within ninety minutes or become vampires themselves. Ace hunter Reeve (Ekin Cheng) loses his girlfriend/slaying partner Lila (Josie Ho) in battle with master vampire Duke Dekotes (Mickey Hardt), and vows he’ll never fall in love again. Reeve is assigned an apprentice, pint-sized Gipsy (Gillian Chung). Struggling to look cool for their first meeting, she glides in slow motion, strikes a cover girl pose and falls flat on her ass. Madly in love with her mentor, Gipsy is delighted to share his apartment, something that outrages Reeve’s hot-tempered kid sister, Helen (Charlene Choi). The girls settle their differences with a hilarious, slapstick kung fu duel and eventually bond. Meanwhile, Helen falls for Prince Kazaf, a benevolent vampire in exile who doesn’t prey on humans, drinks blood from a can, and hangs disco lights in his coffin. Jackie (playing himself as per usual in HK films) pops up as a groom whom gatecrashers Helen and Kazaf lend a helping hand on his wedding day, and repays the favour in a later guise as a paramedic. Vampires chasing Helen are given a crash course in kung fu, Jackie style! Everyone is after a magical book called “Day for Night”, which brings tragedy for Helen and Gipsy, but also endows them with super powers for their climactic face-off against Duke Dekotes and his thousand vampires.
A slick package concocted to showcase Choi and Chung’s star qualities, Twins Effect pleasingly – for this HK fan anyway – retains the idiosyncratic detours common to Chinese action-comedies. Vampire horror mingles with silly gags, fantasy swordplay, CG monsters, parodies of famous (in Hong Kong) TV commercials, teen romance, and fast-paced kung fu. The scattershot approach will alienate some, but the leads share a sparkling chemistry, whilst demonstrating individual strengths that enliven the film. Choi has a genuine flair for improvisational comedy (When Kazaf confesses he’s a vampire, an angry Helen bites his neck to see how he likes it), while Chung is a scrappy, little fighter and shows potential to develop some real acting chops. Their combined energy seems to have rubbed off on Ekin Cheng. Hitherto a bland leading man in the likes of Storm Riders (1998), he plays very well here and has since gone from strength to strength. Anthony Wong (as Kazaf’s vampire butler) is a waste of space as usual and Edison Chen – Hong Kong’s would-be answer to Leonardo Dicaprio – is pretty-boy bland as Kazaf. Watch out for a cameo from HK film expert/co-producer Bey Logan, as a pasty-faced vamp.
The sudden twist into tragedy redeems a lacklustre script, and is genuinely affecting thanks to solid performances from Choi, Chung, and Cheng. Donnie Yen’s fight choreography is sparse, but effective. Fortunately, he pulls out all the stops for Helen and Gipsy’s climactic battle against hordes of undead, which is rousing stuff. Gillian Chung steals the show here, with her pro-wrestling moves and a great moment where she spits her broken tooth in Duke Dekotes’ face and grins in gap-toothed defiance. However, it’s Charlene Choi’s wacky antics that provide the highlights in further Twins movies, none of which were a direct sequel to this one. Though this was the biggest HK hit of its year, Mainland Chinese authorities were so worried tourists would think there were real bloodsuckers on their streets, the vampire angle was dropped. That’s the Twins effect.