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THE TWINS EFFECT  [Chin gei bin]

Region 2 (UK) Edition

Director Dante Lam

Featuring:  Ekin Cheng, Charlene Choi, Gillian Chung, Jackie Chan

THE FILM

The Twins Effect is definitely one of the strangest films I've seen. It's a modern-day vampire film that's clearly been heavily influenced by the Blade movies and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but it's also a goofy comedy vehicle for the Hong Kong equivalent of the Olsen Twins. Oh, and just for good measure (and, no doubt, to improve its chances of being sold to Western audiences) it features a cameo appearance by Hong Kong action legend Jackie Chan (who, incidentally, also sings the film's theme music!)

I don't propose going into the plot in any detail. If your curiosity hasn't already been piqued, then perhaps this isn't the film for you! A few comments about the film are in order, however.

There's nothing in the film that hasn't already been seen in other movies, but it's an amusing grab bag of cultural and cinematic influences. It's certainly a film that doesn't feel the need to explain, for example, how or why the city is overrun by vampires. It just is. To the uninitiated, it feels a lot like watching a sequel to a film you haven't seen.

The film has terrific production values, including numerous CGI-enhanced effects which are perhaps a few years behind the state-of-the-art work seen in movies like Van Helsing. It boasts a handful of energetic - and generally spectacular - fight sequences (choreographed by the great Donnie Yen, who was, not coincidentally, action director on Blade 2), yet there's something lacking, especially in the scene where Jackie Chan's character, an ambulance driver, defends his van against an attack by a couple of vampires. In Chan's best films it's his incredible inventiveness with props and scenery that make his fight scenes such a joy to watch. Here, with all the paraphernalia of an ambulance at his disposal, the best the guest star and his director can manage is a sequence where Chan has to run on the spot as he hangs from the open driver's door. The film's action sequences rely too much on gravity-defying wire work, which doesn't help.

It's hard to see who you could heartily recommend the film to: it's not horrific enough for horror movie fans; it's not funny enough to stand as a comedy. It's a film that tries to serve several masters, and does none of them particularly well. The most appreciative audience may well be teenage girls, but even  they may be turned off by some of the movie's nastier elements. The earlier comparison to an Olsen Twins movie is a little unfair. Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung - fluffy pop superstars who perform as The Twins, hence the film's title - kick some serious butt here, and they're very cute, too. (To give you some idea of how famous they are, this film was shot around their existing pop princess commitments!)

THE DVD

The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen format. The transfer is generally fine, with only some minor dirt and sparkle. There's film grain throughout, especially evident in some of the darker scenes, but this isn't at all detrimental, and I mention it only because some reviews of the Region 1 version note an absence of grain, which suggests to me that their version has been cleaned up with a blast of digital noise reduction. Detail level is sometimes slightly soft, but there is no evidence of artificial edge-enhancement. Contrast range is fine, and colours are often very vibrant. Picture quality is certainly better than you might expect from a Hong Kong movie, and certainly on par with the best Hollywood B-movies. The average bit-rate is 5.62Mb/sec.

The audio presentation is quite appealing. There's a choice of Cantonese mixes: a 5.1 version (at 44kbps) and a 2.0 mix (at 224kbps), with optional player-generated English subtitles. The 5.1 offers plenty of front-weighted spectacle, and some nice surround ambience, too. The audio design is frequently mundane, but occasionally quite refreshing, with an interesting, spiky score by Kwong Wing Chan which, sadly, doesn't get as much prominence as it probably deserved.

There's some oddness when the end credits kick in: suddenly the audio mix goes very quiet, and the audio disappears from the centre speaker. This may be a deliberate mixing choice, or perhaps a fault. Either way it's hardly important.

THE BONUS MATERIAL

The lead bonus feature is The Making of The Twins Effect (which, more accurately, perhaps, seems to be titled The Arrival of a New World Order - The Making of The Twins Effect). This fifteen-minute promotional featurette features interviews with key cast and crew members, including Jackie Chan. The featurette is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen format. Some of the interviewees speak in English, others speak in their native tongue, with English subtitles. There's a fair bit of behind-the-scenes footage, some shots of the Twins being given martial arts training, and a chunk of a pop video of the film's theme song (it's a shame this wasn't included in its entirety on the disc).

The disc also offers substantial Interviews With Cast & Crew. Those contributing are cast members Jackie Chan (14m), Gillian Chung (5m), Charlene Choi (11m), Josie Ho (5m), Edison Chen (6m), and co-director Donnie Yen (12m). There's some crossover here with the Making of... featurette, which extracted sound-bites from these EPK-style interviews, but the vast bulk of the material is new. The interviews are punctuated with captions that "ask" the questions - the interviewer is never seen. There's nearly an hour's worth of material here, so it's worth should not be blithely dismissed.

The disc features four trailers: two theatrical trailers, an International Teaser Trailer, and an Asian Teaser Trailer, which, if you didn't already know, reveals the film's origins as a Summer 2003 blockbuster.

Incidentally, British-born Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan, who has contributed numerous commentary tracks to discs from specialist labels here in the UK, and has something of a cult following in his own right, was a producer on the film. Universal has missed a golden opportunity here, but not getting him to contribute a commentary track.

SUMMARY

The UK disc is much more appealing than Columbia Tristar's American release (where it's been re-titled Vampire Effect). Their version offers an alternate 5.1 track in English, but it's a heavily-edited eighty-eight minute version, tweaked for the domestic market.

The US disc also lacks any meaningful bonus materials, with only a handful of semi-related Columbia Tristar trailers on offer (The Medallion, Underworld etc). The US release prominently features Jackie Chan on the sleeve, and it's to Universal's credit that they've resisted the temptation for the UK version.

One unwanted bonus feature is the addition of a lengthy anti-piracy FACT trailer, which is the first thing you see when you put in the disc. It's not skippable, and you might find yourself getting mightily pissed-off by the time that it starts wittering about copyright theft in Australia.

Universal has made considerable effort with their Twins Effect disc: a lot more than the film probably deserved, frankly. Hong Kong movie fans won't be disappointed with the package on offer, and should be very grateful that the film's longer version is the one Universal has used, but the film itself is lacklustre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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