‘Twin Dragons’ Proves There’s No One Identical to Jackie Chan
Mark Twain had his “Prince and the Pauper.” Elvis Presley had his “Double Trouble.” Patty Duke had her sitcom. Jackie Chan has “Twin Dragons.” Who’d have guessed that what Patty Lane would no doubt have dubbed “the doppelganger bit” still has legs?
And legs, comprising a principal implement in the Jackie Chan universe, fly, slash and scissor-kick all over this tongue-in-cheek meringue of mistaken identity and whimsical mayhem. It’s a standard-issue Jackie Chan product--which means that you won’t have time to cringe at the corny jokes and campy acting before some snazzy physical exertion comes along to sustain your interest.
The setup is, as noted, tried and true. Twin brothers are barely out of the womb before they’re split apart by a firefight between the whole Hong Kong police force and a vicious gangster. One brother, lost in the battle, is raised on the streets while the other becomes an internationally renowned classical musician.
Fate (of course) brings them together 30 years later as John Ma (Chan) returns to Hong Kong to conduct a prestigious concert while Boomer (Chan), a garage mechanic who grabs extra money racing cars, is forced to save his friend from gangsters by driving the car that will help spring the same gangster who caused their separation.
Through wacky complications orchestrated just shy of banality by co-directors Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam, the brothers end up switching roles, with the shy, refined Ma smashing through police barricades and the swaggering, unpolished Boomer conducting a full symphony orchestra as if he were performing aerobics.
Grimace at the deus ex machina all you want. It’s all an excuse for Chan to do what he does best: perform all manner of prestidigitation with whatever his body or his environment will allow. Some of the sight gags drag too long (the hotel bathtub, for example) and bang too hard (the whole concert sequence). But for the most part, he keeps things moving too fast for you to let the limitations sink in.
In the tradition of the movies’ great circus performers, Chan gives people what they want and throws in a few unexpected curves when he feels the freshness fading. The climactic sequence, set in a car-testing facility, would be useful to any movie-maker of any cultural or commercial aspiration who wants to know how to make creative use of every object on the set. (Even the wrenches and the trunk doors take on personalities!) That this stuff is done on a more modest scale than America’s noisier, gaudier action machines only increases its efficiency as mindless escape.
* MPAA rating: PG-13, for some shootings, nonstop martial arts action violence and sensuality. Times guidelines: The violence is familiar to preteen moviegoers, blood is kept to a minimum; the sex talk is mild.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Jackie Chan: John Ma/Boomer
Maggie Cheung: Barbara
Teddy Robin Kwan: Tyson
Sylvia Chang: Twins’ Mother
Alfred Cheung: Boss Wing
A Dimension Films release of a Distant Horizons and Media Asia Distribution presentation of a film by Hong Hong Directors Guild. Directors Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam. Producer Teddy Robin. Executive producer Ng Sze Yeun. Screenplay Barry Wong, Tsui Hark, Cheing Tung Jo, Wong Yik. Editor Mak Che Sin. Cinematographers Wong Wing Hang, Wong Ngor Tai. Music Michael Wandmacher, Phe Loung. Running time: 1:30
In general release throughout Southern California.