Although Hong Kong pixie popstrels Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi, known (or perhaps dreaded, depending on the viewer’s disposition) collectively as Twins, have individually been building up respectable bodies of acting work, their past cinematic collaborations have tended to be pretty shoddy efforts. Their films are seemingly strung together by their record company as thinly veiled advertisements for their singing careers, as painfully evidenced by the likes of “The Twins Effect” and “The Death Curse”. As such, it is hard to approach their latest joint venture, the worryingly named “Twins Mission”, without a certain amount of trepidation, though the presence of legendary Sammo Hung and up and coming martial arts sensation Wu Jing does at least offer a glimmer of optimism.
The plot itself is pretty much what might have been expected, having been lazily written around the lead actresses’ pop personas and the marketing conceit of them being twin sisters (a note for the uninitiated: the two are entirely unrelated in real life). Here, the two play Jade and Pearl, circus trapeze artists who happen to be former members of a gang of young thieves called ‘Twins’ due to its being made up entirely of identical siblings. Along with a handful of fellow reformed twins, the duo team up with another prior comrade called Lau Hay (Wu Jing, “Sha Po Lang”), a monk who has traveled to Hong Kong along with his uncle (played by Sammo Hung) to visit his ailing brother, after his mysterious ‘Heaven’s Bead’ is inevitably stolen by, surprise, surprise, the remaining criminal twins.
To begin with the bad news, as should be obvious from the above synopsis, “Twins Mission” is an exasperatingly convoluted affair, with the ‘twins’ concept being played for every last penny — a gimmick let down by the glaring fact that Chung and Choi do not even look particularly alike and seem oddly lost amongst the cast of doubles. Predictably, the film features mistaken identity gags a-plenty, though to be fair many of these instances are wholly understandable given that none of the characters are fleshed out in the least, and are only identifiable by their various wacky costumes.
Beyond these supposed plot twists, there is very little in the way of any actual narrative, with the film lurching wildly from set piece to set piece rather than as a result of any actual drama or character development. Another conspicuous flaw comes in the form of some truly awful computer effects, from the wince inducing opening scene of an obviously fake and badly animated bird flying down some river gorges to some equally wretched background work, and dreadful enhancements to action scenes which reduce several brawls to bizarre bouts of floating ballet.
Whilst such criticisms may well serve to put off some viewers, they are all very much par for the course, and should not prove much of a deterrent for the film’s intended audience. Indeed, for those of a less than cynical bent, the film arguably delivers the goods, offering a slight and insubstantial, though energetic and charmingly wacky caper packed with plenty of low impact martial arts tomfoolery. Aside from the aforementioned redundant computer trickery, the frequent fight scenes are handled well enough, and though obviously not very violent, they are reasonably acrobatic and help to keep things moving along at a brisk pace.
The above having been said, despite the general lack of viciousness in the action scenes, it is worth noting that the film does feature one oddly unpleasant scene in which a character has rats forced down his throat, only to have them burst from his stomach in a busy shopping mall. And there’s the distinctly cruel manipulation of a terminally ill child who is at one point dangled threateningly from a crane.
Although they unfortunately take a back seat to the escapades of Choi and Chung, Sammo and Wu Jing are at least given a number of scenes to show off their remarkable martial arts skills, something which gives the proceedings a certain credibility boost. The film also benefits considerably from the fact that it relies upon some well choreographed physical humour rather than the usual scatological Hong Kong brand of slapstick, and although unsophisticated it is amusing throughout in an undemanding sort of way.
These plus points are enough to raise “Twins Mission” above what might have been expected, and to mark it as an entertaining, if rather chaotic slice of kung fu comedy which should certainly please fans of the stars, as well as viewers looking for a little light hearted fun.
To-hoi Kong (director) / Sai-Keung Fong (screenplay), Siu Ming Tsui (original story)
CAST: Charlene Choi … Pearl
Gillian Chung … Jade
Sammo Hung Kam-Bo … Lucky
Jacky Wu … Lau Hey
Wah Yuen … Chang Chung
Jess Zhang … Lilian
Steven Cheung … Fred