Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Twin Dragons

By Russell Smith

APRIL 19, 1999: 

D: Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam; with Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung. (PG-13, 89 min.)

Twin Dragons, made seven years ago to raise money for the Hong Kong Director's Guild, is now being hustled onto the revival circuit to catch the tail-draft of last year's mega-successful Rush Hour. As flagrant cash-in strategies go, it's actually pretty darned felicitous. Other Chan movies have been more favorably reviewed, but few dish out more of the kinetically exhilarating flesh-cartoon spectacle that has dominated the latter half of his career. Of course, this will register as an endorsement only for those who buy into Chan's cult of personality and his anachronistic, slapstick-driven style. Few movie personalities (I doubt that even the man himself would characterize himself as a real actor) generate responses so dramatically split into entrenched pro and con camps. Personally, I regard Chan as a treasure, a living link to an archaic but still vital form of purely physical comedy that is as worthy of respect within its own sphere as the gemlike verbal wit of a Tom Stoppard script. Granted, you could search Jackie's entire body of work in vain for a plot that served as much more than a bungee cord loosely binding together a succession of tour de force fight scenes, and Twin Dragons is no exception to that rule. In this case, the story gimmick is that Chan plays both leads: a pair of identical twins separated at birth, one of whom grows up to be a world-famous concert pianist and the other a lowly grease monkey with a knack for getting on the wrong side of local gangsters. Hilarity ensues as the two men's girlfriends and the aforementioned hoods chase the guys around Hong Kong in an escalating tumult of boat and car chases, explosions, gun battles, and epic martial arts dustups that are as painstakingly staged as Cirque du Soleil acrobatic routines. Hark and Lam, tossing all artistic pretense aside, surrender themselves totally to Chan's goofball aesthetic, resourcefully framing not only the centerpiece fights but also the endearingly loopy bits of straight slapstick -- as when the mechanic ends up conducting the Hong Kong symphony. Chan, who long ago gave up trying to please the contingent that maintains he's sucked since Drunken Master, has instead forged onward in perfecting his idiosyncratic vision of showboating kung fu mayhem perpetrated by a basically pacifistic character who's as fun to watch trying to avoid fights as actually cracking the bad guys' skulls. Again, let there be no mistaking that Twin Dragons is only for those who are fully on the bus with Jackie's approach, who don't regard Chris Tucker as indispensable yang to Chan's yin, and who won't let a little bad (okay, execrable) English-language dubbing get in the way of their movie enjoyment. If this describes you, get cracking and avail yourself of this rare two-for-one Chan special.
3.5 stars


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