Twin Dragons

on April 09, 1999 by Wade Major
   On the heels of the blockbuster success of "Rush Hour," Miramax's Dimension label has dusted off another old Jackie Chan classic--1992's "Twin Dragons," an uproariously funny comedy that has long been considered one of Jackie's very best. Like such previous Dimension re-releases as "Operation Condor" and "Supercop," some cosmetic tinkering has been wrought on "Twin Dragons," namely dubbed dialogue, a totally unnecessary new score by Michael Wandmacher and some questionable cuts. Still, while there is no substitute for seeing the film in its original form, Miramax and Distant Horizon are to be guardedly praised for not mucking up "Twin Dragons" as egregiously as "Operation Condor."
   Filmed as something of a sideways response to Jean-Claude Van Damme's middling 1991 hit "Double Impact," "Twin Dragons" is a fairly straightforward twins-separated-at-birth saga in which an escaped convict kidnaps one of two newborn boys, only to have it fall into the hands of an alcoholic prostitute who raises it as her own. Years later, the prostitute has passed on, but the boy, now grown, is alive and well, a streetwise martial arts expert and skilled auto mechanic known as Die Hard (originally Bok Min). His brother Ma Yau, meanwhile, has forged a career stateside as a famous concert pianist and conductor. Though neither has any knowledge of the other, they retain a psychic connection that is reactivated when Ma Yau arrives in Hong Kong for a concert.
   Suddenly and inexplicably, each begins sensing the experiences of the other, and at the most inopportune times. Even worse, as they continually cross paths with the same people (though never actually meeting themselves) they leave a wasteland of mayhem and confusion in their wake, the greatest toll levied on their respective girlfriends--a lounge singer named Barbara (reliable Jackie regular Maggie Cheung) and a spoiled socialite named Sweetie (Jet Li fiancee Nina Li Chi as a character originally named Tong Sum). The proceedings are interlaced with a variety of other subplots, namely Die Hard's ongoing troubles with a local mobster who eventually nabs his wayward buddy, Tarzan (Teddy Robin Kwan), to set up the spectacular rescue/finale in an automobile testing facility. Such particulars, of course, are simply part of the ingenious obstacle course that allows Jackie to flex his comedic muscles, few of which, ironically, involve fighting. Excepting the finale and two major set pieces, the film's physical comedy is surprisingly non-violent, relying more on Lubitsch-style situational humor, traditional farce and the psychic link gimmick to sustain the laughs. The famous hot-tub sequence, featuring both brothers and Sweetie, is a masterpiece of comic timing, performance and direction.
   Originally produced to benefit the Hong Kong Directors Guild, the film (splendidly co-directed by veterans Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam) also features dozens of cameos by famous Hong Kong filmmakers (Kirk Wong, John Woo, Sylvia Chang, Lam and Tsui to name only a handful) as well as in-jokes that only committed fans of Hong Kong cinema are likely to get.
   Still, the core of "Twin Dragons" remains resolutely universal, as enduringly funny for American audiences in 1999 as it was for Asian audiences in 1992.    Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Teddy Robin Kwan and Nina Li Chi. Directed by Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam. Written by Barry Wong, Tsui Hark, Tung Cho "Joe" Cheung and Yik Wong. A Miramax release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for some shootings, non-stop martial arts action violence and sensuality. Running time: 89 min.
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