Boys rule, girls drool in Corey Yuen and Patrick Leung’s aged-like-milk fantasy.
“You’re not even a real man.”
In 2003, to capitalise on the growing fame of Cantopop singing duo Twins, the Emperor Multimedia Group put Dante Lam and Donnie Yen behind the camera to shoot a movie about the titular Twins hunting vampires. It was the sort of silly nonsense you expect from any pop star vehicle, and a perfectly enjoyable waste of an hour and a half. It must have been wildly successful because only a year later a sequel was released – one that has almost nothing to do with the band or even the first movie. Twins Effect II once again features Twins members Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung as two women who start out as rivals but grow to like one another while also falling hopelessly in love with whatever men happen to be closest to them physically.
This time, however, it’s set in the fictional “Land of the Amazons” that is, as far as I can tell, nothing like the Greek island off which it seems to be based. The land is ruled over by a queen (Qu Ying) who hates men, and has forced them all to live as slaves. Choi plays a friendly slave trader (Christ what a combination of words) called Thirteenth Master, and Chung is a royal guard named Blue Bird. For separate reasons, they both find themselves chasing after minstrels Charcoal Head and Block Head (Jaycee Chan and Bolin Chen respectively) after the two of them find themselves owners of a stone puzzle which is actually a map to a powerful sword strong enough to end the queen’s tyranny.
It’s kind of hard to describe what happens in Twins Effect II without coming across as some sort of lunatic. The story presented often feels less like a cohesive string of events and more like a dream someone won’t stop trying to explain to you. Twins Effect II is absolutely loaded with bizarre scenes, character names and pieces of lore that I’m surprised it isn’t based off an existing property. Donnie Yen appears in little more than a cameo as the supposed leader of an anti-queen resistance, though he pretty much vanishes immediately. In the Netflix subs his name is Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon – and I don’t speak nearly enough Cantonese to know whether or not that’s his actual name or some American reference to a film he wouldn’t star in for another 12 years. The man who can wield the magical sword is known as the Star of Rex for some perplexing reason. Nothing makes sense.
The world building is interesting in both the best and worst ways possible. The flashbacks give us context for the queen’s hatred of men, which suggests a massive cultural shift happened maybe a decade back at most and every single woman and man just sort of went along with it. The queen is shown to be a witch, but it’s still the sort of crazy leap that I’d only otherwise seen in the maybe two or three years between the first two Mad Max films. But we also get funny scenes of sharp-toothed cave-dwellers who escaped the queen’s madness, and a forest of ghosts (bafflingly titled the Haunted City).
There’s also some enjoyable action. Choi and Chung get the first big fight of the movie, and do very well when they’re not replaced with CGI dolls, and we get a decent-enough one-on-one between Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan (also in a cameo), which barely serves the plot but does please the martial arts nerd in me. Twins Effect II has I’d say twenty minutes of solid material interspersed throughout a movie otherwise filled with unfunny shtick and wasted talent.
And when it’s all over and the credits roll, I don’t think it even knew what it was trying to say. Women are horrible leaders? Cowards who follow whatever their queen orders? So fragile they’ll upturn society just because one lover scorned them (accidentally, mind you)? I think it wanted to tell us that the sexes are equal but despite being titled after and starring two women, the people behind the film seem to think very little of them. It’s only when men – who are always chummy compared to those bitchy, bitchy women – dare back in their rightful place as the people in charge is the world finally in balance. I don’t think it was intended to be this way, but Twins Effect II sometimes reads like it was written by some sad MGTOW activist.
It tries too hard to go bigger than its predecessor, and fails in almost every way. The cast work very well off each other despite the awful material: Jaycee Chan and Charlene Choi have enough adorable energy between them to alleviate pretty much all of their scenes. The first one was OK because it kept things small and chose to just have the cast joke about. This one has many scenes like that, but they’re all bogged down in layers of nonsense. And ultimately, all you’re going to remember in this is that at one point a dude cut his own dick off and the chief minstrel has titties.
Verdict: I guess Twins Effect II works as a promotional piece for the band, as they come out looking like the only non-stupid thing in the entire movie.
Overall entertainment: 4/10
Donnie Yen: I swear I’ll get to the Ip Man films one day, and he will be redeemed on this site.
Fan Bingbing: Was apparently in this, according to IMDb. God knows who she was.
Lady Soldiers: Have to dress in pinks and purples, naturally
Twin Effect 2 (2004)
Also known as: 千机变II花都大战
Directors: Corey Yuen, Patrick Leung
Writers: Chan Kin-chung, Roy Szeto, Chit Ka-kei, Lam Suet, Michelle Tsui
Charlene Choi –13th Master
Gillian Chung – Blue Bird
Jaycee Chan – Charcoal Head
Bolin Chen – Blockhead
Donnie Yen – General Lone
Tony Leung Ka-fai – Master Blackwood
Qu Ying – the Evil Queen
Fan Bingbing – Red Vulture
Jackie Chan – Lord of Armour
Daniel Wu – High Priest Wei Liao
Edison Chen – Peachy
Jim Chim – Palupa
Xie Jingjing – Marshall Edo Bowman