Film & DVD Review
It's said that if a vampire absorbs all six Vampire Princes' blood, he can open the dark bible "Day For Night", and can control the human world. Ace Vampire slayer Reeve and his new partner Gypsy are on a mission to stop Duke Dekotes from doing this, however Reeve's younger sister Helen falls in love with the fifth prince Kazaf, who is a gentle vampire that would never hurt a human. One day, the Duke leads many vampires to kill Reeve and to absorb Kazaf's blood, the last one on his killing list.
Many months ago when The Twins Effect was in still in the (post?) production stage, there was a small growing excitement around this film. It was a vampire film, which promised to have martial arts, with the fight choreography by Donnie Yen. Then when the trailers started to be released, the trailers did what every trailer should do: make the film look good. In fact, I thought it made the film look very good. There appeared to be brief glimpses of really decent looking fight scenes, and the story was very intriguing, and with the bigger budget, hopes were generally high.
I won't hold you in suspense in telling what I think of the film after watching it. I was very much disappointed. The film really did have potential, but as I'll explain later it failed to live up to any of it. First a little comment on the film's title. There is absolutely nothing in the film which has anything to do with twins, or their effect. Nothing. So why is the film called The Twins Effect? Well for those who are not up to date with Hong Kong pop culture (I'm not either, just I've heard this!), a little pop duo who are currently very big in Hong Kong, and I as far as I am aware I do mean very big, are a duo called The Twins. Are the duo really twins? No, they are in fact none other than the two female stars of this film, Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung. Calling the film The Twins Effect, is clearly just a marketing ploy to milk the duo's popularity for all it is worth.
Ok, onto the film now. The plot itself is reasonable, although still simple, by Hong Kong action film standards. There is a book called Day for Night which can only be opened with the blood of the six vampire princes. Once opened the book will allow the vampire who opens it to come out during day time, and other more super powers type stuff. A European vampire, Duke Dekotes, has managed to get the blood of all but one of the vampire princes, who has fled to Hong Kong, and travels their in pursuit.
After Duke Dekotes are the vampire slayers. The top slayer is Reeve (Ekin Cheng), the man who has killed the most vampires, but who has also lost a few partners. His latest assistant is Gypsy (Gillian Chung), a trainee vampire slayer, who also has a major crush on him. Living with him is his sister Helen (Charlene Choi), a fairly moany and emotional girl.
One day Helen meeets a guy called Kazaf (Edison Chen), and quickly takes a liking to him. However Kazaf is in fact the last remaining vampire prince, and is also a kind vampire who vows never to hurt a human or suck blood from a human. Despite being of the species that is Reeve and Gypsy's sworn enemy, along with Helen, they have to rely on him for his help in stopping Duke Dekotes and his followers.
Like I said, the story is simple, but there is more than enough scope in there to set up quite a few action scenes, and have a good Vampire Vs. Slayer, with a good vamp helping the slayers type film. The Twins Effect, though, ignores this possibility and turns what felt like more than half the film into a comedy romance film. Why? Why, I ask you, WHY? The opening ten minutes or so of the film are brilliant! It just dives you straight into the action, with Reeve and his partner at that time (Josie Ho) fighting loads of vamps. It looks good, sounds good, and there are some really pretty decent moves going on. Some of it does comes across a bit MTV in the editting, but those sections are in the minority in the opening here.
The biggest crime of the film, in the opening, is killing off Josie Ho's character. She was someone who, as an actress, looked like she could pull of quite a lot of good martial arts moves, and really could fight. In fact, bar a few of the vampires, she came across as the best martial artist in the film, so why kill her off so early?!?! I personally think the film would have been better if she had stayed in it. Anyway, like I've already stated, after the opening, which was quite bleak and very serious in tone, the film completely nose dives and becomes very light hearted and romantic. The relationship which it focusses on mostly is that of Helen and Kazaf. However Helen's character is very annoying in the early stages, and I do mean very, so I couldn't care less about her relationship. I just wished Kazaf wasn't a good vampire and just killed her and drank her blood - now that would have been a good film! The other relationship is that of Reeve and Gypsy, but very little is made of that at all, so again I didn't really care for either character and the way they felt for each other.
Amid this romantic comedy section is the obligatory fight between The Twins. Even though they are on the same side in the film, it obviously had to be fit into the film somehow! There is very little hand to hand stuff here, as it is mainly stick fighting. I've read that some people liked this fight, and thought it was one of the better parts of the film (or something like that)... There I got to disagree. While neither of the two are martial artists, I will assume that they underwent some training prior to filming. My main criticism for the fight is also a criticism of the action choreogrpaher Donnie Yen's apparent standards. When fighting the girls do not really use the sticks that well. Now I do martial arts, so I know a little about fighting with a stick, and one of the things I've been taught is that if you have a 6' stick, use all 6' of it. And if you are trying to hit someone on the head, say, with the stick, aim at their head. In several of the moves the girls do, it is clear that they are not really aiming at the other person, they are aiming at the block. In a couple of strikes that I'll assume were meant to be at the head, the end of the stick was at least a foot or so above the other person's head height. To see this for yourself, look at the very first strike in their stick fight. Where exactly were either of them aiming?
The fight may have had a few comical moments, but for me it did nothing at all, except lower my opinion of Donnie Yen's choreography even further. For me, Donnie Yen is one of the most over-rated action choreographers. I've seen five films where he was the action choreographer: Wing Chun, Ballistic Kiss, Shanghai Affairs, Princess Blade and this, and in only Wing Chun did I think the fight scenes were actually quite good. I do believe he can be a very good on screen performer, but a choreographer? No.
The second best fight of the film, after the opening segment, is Reeve against a vampire in an alley way. There are some fairly long takes here, and the action seems fast, but not undercranked. None of the moves or combos are anything special although the vampire does perform quite a few acrobatic moves which are pretty cool, but the overall flow of the scene is much better than anything else in the film, again with the exception of the opening. However, again the scene is ruined by some misplaced comedy involving Gypsy.
This scene is also where I have another big criticism. Reeve is hacking away at the vampire with his sword, but the vamp keeps blocking it with his arms and feet, without getting cut. In fact, this goes for a lot of the opening as well, the vampire slayer sword doesn't really seem to be that sharp, as you rarely see it cut anything. That is, of course, until the finale where both Gypsy and Helen have one, and everything they touch appears to be cut by the swords easier than soft butter. A little inconsistent there me thinks.
Ok, so the romance comedy section of the film also has a few action sequences in it, one of which involves an extended cameo from Jackie Chan. You first meet him in the film at his wedding to Karen Mok which, while serving no purpose for the film other than to introduce him, is quite funny pretty much soley thanks to Karen Mok, who I'm beginning to think is one of my favourite Hong Kong actresses. So after Jackie is introduced, he appears a little later in the film as an ambulance driver who gets caught up in a vampire fight. Again there is nothing great shown here, but Chan does get to use his trademark style of fighting, i.e. everything and anything lying around can be used in one way or another. While it is entertaining, I think a little more could have been made of it, as their way of dealing with the vampires was a bit of an anti-climax.
Anyway, after the whole comedy romance section of the fim is over, it turns a bit bleaker and more serious again for the big finale. Unfortunately the big finale turns out to be a "quite large I guess, but I wouldn't really call it big" finale. It definitely never reaches the standards set at the opening of the film. Some of the action is ok, but when you've got the guy playing Duke Dekotes who looks like a reasonable fighter, up against to small girls who look like they could possibly break if you touch them too hard, there has to be a limit as to how much you can do, and how much of that is believable. Whether it is a casting problem, choreography problem, or both that ruins the film the most, I don't know, but The Twins Effect was no where near as satisfying as it could have been.
Acting wise, there is really very little comment to make. Charlene Choi was very annoying at times, but cute on other occassions. After seeing her in My Wife is 18 also alongside Ekin Cheng, I found her acting in that one was just cute acting, I'm beginning to think she is somewhat limited in acting range. Maybe with more experience that will improve. Gillian Chung was much better to watch, possibly because she was a bit more of a serious character. Ekin Cheng was good in the serious bits, but not so much in the comedy moments. I think it may just have been the stark contrast in tones that ruined the way his character was portrayed. Edison Chen was alright I guess. Not bad to watch, but nothing overly watchable either. In his small supporting role, Anthony Wong was the best to watch, but again there wasn't really anything memorable on display, except his little deleted scene bit in the closing credits which was really quite funny.
To summarise, The Twins Effect is a film which could have been great. If it had stuck to the mood and style of the opening section, I really think it would have been a fantastic film. Instead it turned into a vehicle to further publicise the current Hong Kong teen idols, The Twins and Edison Chen. The film didn't appear to know what it really wanted to be, an action film, a romance, a comedy or anything else... It took elements from them all, but failed to make them gel together. Despite all the criticism I've thrown at the film, it is still reasonably entertaining. If you can look at seperate scenes in their own right, some of them are pretty good, but like I said, the gelling of the film is what ruins them. Best advice then, completely switch off your brain before watching, grab some popcorn and a beer and expect nothing more than mindless light hearted entertainment.
Audio & Subtitles
Of all the sound options, I chose to watch The Twins Effect in the original Cantonese language and DTS mode. Now the sound absolutely rocked, in my opinion. Effects were frequently spread all round the speakers, and everything was crisp and clear. The subwoofer was used very frequently too, although mainly in the action scenes. I don't know whether this soundtrack was just recorded at a particularly high volume, but I did have to set my amplifier to a lower volume level than I usually have it set when watching films. Anyway, loud and full of life are terms I'd use to describe the soundtrack, so good marks here!
The subtitles were of an equally high standard. In fact I don't recall there being anything wrong with them at all. Spelling and grammar were both nigh on perfect throughout, as far as I recall. Not much else to say here really.
Being a very recent production, and a reasonably high profile release, there would be no excuse for anything less than a great print. I think Universe passed here. The print looked great! In quite a few scenes the fine detail visible was fantastic, giving the picture so much more life than the older letterboxed releases. Colour levels all looked good, as no scene looked too dark, bright etc., and there were only a few instances where I noticed any speckling on the print. Grain levels also looked pretty low, as everything always looked nice and sharp. There were a few scenes where the lighting in the background of the set left a bit of a glare on the screen, which is more down to bad camera positioning than a print fault.
DVD & Extras
First thing to mention here is the packaging and bonus items in this The Twins Effect Limited Edition release. The packaging is styled on the Day for Night book, featured in the film, and is made of reasonably sturdy card. The bat on the front is solid metal, and pretty heavy. Even though the card is sturdy, it doesn't really fit the bill that well. If they were going for the book design packaging, then things like the Buffy The Vampire Slayer Watcher's Diary styled box set or the Evil Dead Book of the Dead packaging are more like what should be expected. Inside the pack there are 5 little bonus items. There are glossy postcard/photo style prints of the four leading cast members, Ekin Cheng, Gillian Chung, Charlene Choi and Edison Chen. These have a printed signature on them. The original details of the set said (if I recall correctly) that the postcards would be hand signed, but clearly this idea was abandoned! For me the postcards are of no real value, although they do look fancy. The last of the bonus items is a replica vampire slayer sword. Alas this one is only about 3 inches in size, and isn't retractable etc etc. However, it is quite an accurate representation of the sword from whenever Ekin Cheng had it, in that it isn't sharp!
DVD extras, despite being a two disk set, are pretty minimal. There is nothing on the first disc, but on the second there is a More Attractions section, which features trailers for: Heroic Duo, Truth or Dare - 6th Floor Rear Flat, My Dream Girl, Just One Look, My Wife is 18 and Women from Mars. Then there are Star Files on the five main cast members. Calling these Star Files is a little bit of an overstatement, as they are only filmographies. Next there are three trailers for The Twins Effect, and lastly there is a Making Of... featurette which clocks in at about 17 minutes. There are forced Chinese subtitles for this, but no english ones. For a complete DVD dedicated to the extras, this is really a pretty poor show. I would have thought it could all have fit onto the first DVD with the film.
It is worth noting that I bought this Limited Edition set from Layoyo.com for HK$93 (£7.25) (before shipping) on pre-order. Not long after that it went up to about HK$130, and is now at HK$389 (£30.40)! The original price was good, as it was just about HK$20 above the standard edition's price, but it is in no way shape or form worth the current asking price. The set that is identical to this, but in gold/bronze is priced at (at time of writing) HK$195 (£15.20) which I also have to say is too pricey, when all you are getting extra are the cards, sword and fancy box. The standard edition is HK$79 (£6.16) and comes with much smaller a shipping fee,
The Twins Effect is a film which promised so much for so long. The trailers made it look so cool, and I genuinely was quite excited about it. Then once it was released the bad reviews started coming in, and now that I've seen it, I can understand why it got all the bad reviews. The film doesn't know what it wants to be: is it a serious martial arts film, is it a comedy, is it a romance... It tries to be all of them, but doesn't successfully manage to be any of them. It started brilliantly, and if it has stayed like that it would have been an absolute corker. It didn't. It became a brainless popcorn flick, which can entertain in some places, but drag in others. Shame.
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