Texas Lady

“The Queen of Hearts”

texasladyThe start here is absolutely fascinating. Riverboat gambler Chris Mooney (Sullivan) is getting his ass kicked by an unknown amateur – and, worse yet, it’s a woman. Certain it’s just bad luck, he borrows $30,000… and loses that too. The woman, Prudence Webb (Colbert), takes the money and gives it to a bank. Her father, who had a gambling problem, had embezzled cash, lost it to Mooney, and subsequently committed suicide. To gain revenge, she had learned to play poker, studied his tactics quietly and, when she felt assured of victory, put her plan into action. Talk about best served cold. With the balance of the cash, she buys a newspaper in a small Texas town, Fort Ralston. Why? Why not. But on arriving there, she finds the local land barons, in particular Micah Ralston (Collins), after whom the town is named, less receptive to her new-fangled ways, though his hired gun Foley (Walcott) takes a rather creepy shine to Webb.

Intent on recovering his reputation as much as the cash, Mooney has followed Webb to Fort Ralston, where Foley resents the new arrival, seeing him as a rival for Prudence’s affection. Meanwhile, roused by her newspaper’s editorial stance, promoting developments such as the railroad, the town is beginning to stand up against their landlord. Ralston retaliates by fabricating a claim of unpaid back taxes on the newspaper, for which Webb is deemed liable. When that fails to get rid of her, and the residents revolt by electing their own mayor, sheriff and judge, replacing Ralston’s cronies, he blockades the town, citing his ownership of the land all around it. Will Prudence and Chris prevail, in their efforts to bring the town into the modern era [or, at least, the late 19th century?]

Colbert is an interesting choice. She won an Oscar almost two decades earlier, for It Happened One Night, and was among Hollywood’s biggest stars at the end of the thirties. The romantic aspects here are, at first sight, implausible, since she is in her fifties (easily old enough to be Walcott’s mother, for example) and not what you’d describe as classically “pretty.” But screen presence and personality make up for a lot of that gap, with the strength of Webb’s character well ahead of its time. I almost wish they had made the entire movie about the initial plot to get revenge for her father; it would have made for a unique and fascinating tale in itself. Instead, the film more or less collapses into standard Western shenanigans with Mooney’s arrival in town, the film becoming mostly about his struggle against Ralston, with Webb largely taking a back seat in her own movie. This is much less interesting, unfortunately: Sullivan isn’t as good an actor, and his character is largely a stock white-hat. Collins’ portrayal of the villain isn’t bad; you do appreciate he has something of a legitimate beef, having sacrificed his life to the town and its people, which is more motivation than you usually get.

In the end, the production lives or dies with Colbert. When focusing on her, it’s thoroughly entertaining and innovative. Unfortunately, the second half largely shifts its attention off Webb, and significantly weakens the overall quality of the movie.

Dir: Tim Whelan
Star: Claudette Colbert, Barry Sullivan, Gregory Walcott, Ray Collins

Temptress of a Thousand Faces


temptressThis loopy slice of sixties Shaw Brothers nonsense is best described as a bizarre combination of martial arts, 007 and Danger: Diabolik. The titular supervillainess has Hong Kong at her mercy, robbing at will due to her extraordinary disguise capabilities. The police, in particular detective Ji Ying (Chin-Fei), are aggravated, and matters are not helped by the local media sensationalizing things, realizing news about the Temptress sells a lot of newspapers. They are led by Molly (Ting Hung), who goes as far as fabricating stories entirely, which brings down on her the wrath of Ji Ying. The Temptress is similarly upset by Ji Ying’s public pronouncements condemning her as a threat to society and kidnaps the policewoman, bringing her to a secret lair purely to explain how the Temptress is doing to destroy Ji Ying’s life. This she proceeds to do, by carrying out subsequent robberies while wearing Ji Ying’s face, causing her to be arrested for those crimes. The cop escapes custody, and it seems the only way to prove her innocence is to capture the real Temptress.

There are so many aspects here that are utterly ludicrous; my favourite was like the Temptress’s lair, which is exactly what I would build, if ever I become an evil overlord. It’s all dry ice, pillars and needlessly complex torture devices, though does at least have a pool, in which the Temptress occasionally lounges, being soaped down by pastie-wearing minions. I also enjoyed the way said henchmen, on the numerous occasions when they are sent to capture Ji Ying, will inevitably first try to defeat her in hand-to-hand combat, and only after failing, then resort to pulling out their guns. To offer an honest assessment, the Temptress needs to have spent more money on her recruitment policy and rather less on the facilities. And I haven’t even got to the glorious fight between Ji Ying and “Ji Ying”, when the cop bursts in on the Temptress, wearing her face and snogging her boyfriend. Coincidentally, they’re both wearing the same outfits, and the poor man has no clue which one is the real deal, adding to the scene’s utterly surreal quality.

But, it should be stressed, these hardly detract from the entertainment value to be had here, even if many of them were apparently intended to be taken far more seriously at the time (which would be 1969) than they deserve. The heroine and villainness make for a fine pair, and given the era, it’s especially refreshing that just about all the men involved are incompetent and/or background figures. Accept that you will probably be laughing at the film as much as with it, and you’ll find an enjoyable 76 minutes of nonsense to be had here. [Tip of the hat to Dieter for pointing me in the direction of this one!]

Dir: Chang-hwa Jeong
Star: Tina Chin-Fei, Liang Chen, Pat Ting Hung

Tiger House

“It’s Die Hard… In an English suburb.”

Kelly (Scodelario) sneaks into her boyfriend’s bedroom, only to find herself stuck there, when a group of criminals invade the home, intending to use his father as part of a robbery. Before being captured, the boyfriend does manage to injure the gang’s leader, Shane (Scott), who is then laid out on the bed to recuperate, while the gang regroup and adjust their plans. Unfortunately, it’s the same bed under which Kelly – who was a promising gymnast, up until an unfortunate accident with a crossbow(!) – has hidden herself. With no apparent way out, can she save the rest of the family and escape her perilous situation?


An attempt to cross the ever-popular “Die Hard in a ____” and home invasion genres, the performances here deserve a significantly better script, than the largely sorry procession of coincidences and implausibilities we get here. Oh, look! There’s a crossbow in the attic! And, wouldn’t you know it, Kelly still carries around in her handbag, the bolt which ended her sporting aspirations! What are the odds against that? Some of the crooks’ behaviour also falls into the category of idiocy necessary to the plot as well; they seem strangely oblivious to their surrounding for career criminals, even when Kelly is literally hanging off the banisters above their head.

Counterbalancing these problematic aspects, both Scodelario and Scott deliver well-rounded performances – all the more impressive for the latter, since 90% of his screen time is spent lying on his back. Kelly is shown early on to be a strong-minded and independent girl, not reliant on anyone, least of all her boyfriend, who all but vanished from the movie after he leaves the bedroom to investigate a middle of the night noise. Assistance is provided by Callum, the psycho henchman – standard for both the genres – played by Skrein who appears to have gone on to greater things, starring in the recent reboot of The Transporter. The same goes for Scodelario, who is now the female lead in the Maze Runner series.

Notably not yet going on to Hollywood fame is writer Simon Lewis. You can increasingly see why that’s the case, the further this goes on, with Shane inexplicably switching sides and other plot points requiring so much suspension of disbelief, you could use it to build a small bridge. While the idea of interbreeding these two types of action-thriller is not a bad one, and the suburban setting adds a claustrophobic element, the storyline is in desperate need of several stiff rewrites, on its way to an ending that does deliver a satisfactory amount of heroiney goodness – albeit still with a deficiency on the logic front. You’ll have to go through more contortions than the gymastic lead, for your mind to swallow this one.

Dir: Thomas Daley
Star: Kaya Scodelario, Dougray Scott, Ed Skrein, Langley Kirkwood


“Because Cheryl Strayed is a wuss.”

tracks02I am getting an echo of Wild here, even though this actually came out first. Both are based on books by women who decided to deal with their emotional and psychological baggage by striking out on a lone trek through the wilderness. But rather than the relatively civilized world of the Pacific Crest Trail, the heroine here, Robyn Davidson (Wasikowska), heads 1,700 miles across the Australian outback, from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean coast, accompanied by four camels and a dog. That’s hardcore, being far more of a solo voyage, with long periods where Davidson is entirely on her own – the sole regular companion is photographer Rick Smolan (Driver), who drops in sporadically to document the trek for her sponsor, National Geographic magazine. We first see Davidson as she arrives in Alice Spring, following her as she goes from a naive woman with no experience of the livestock she’ll be managing, to someone who can handle what’s basically a cross between a cow with a bad attitude and a giraffe.

As with Strayed, there is trauma in the past which, it’s implied, acts as the trigger for the expedition. In the case of Davidson, it’s more childhood trauma, with a mother who committed suicide, and a father who, unable to cope with the aftermath, shipped Robyn off and had her dog put down. This is revealed in flashbacks, and for my money, is handled rather better than in Wild, in part because it doesn’t dwell on this or make it the focus. Tracks is more about the physical journey, with the spiritual one a side-dish, the reverse of the situation in Wild.

This does require a lot more restraint from Wasikowska, in terms of her performance: she has to do more acting and less Acting, if you see what I mean. I prefer that approach, and the smaller, quieter portrayal we get here only emphasizes the enormity of the landscape through which she is moving. The outback is, in many ways, an unspoken character here, sometimes threatening, sometimes staggeringly alluring, though I’d have been interested to hear some more of the nuts and bolts of the expedition: even prosaic stuff, such as, how the hell does Robyn not get incinerated without a hat? Maybe there’s a documentary film that can fill in these blanks.

There’s not much sense of threat on the human side, with just about everyone who encounters the “camel lady” being generally supportive. The worst issue is when Rick photographs an Aboriginal ceremony he shouldn’t be, leading to some friction with the natives, but it’s hardly the stuff of great drama. It’s more of a character study/travelogue, and from what I’ve seen, Wasikowska – best know as Alice in Tim Burton’s Wonderland – certainly looks the part of Davidson. Yet its calm tranquility ends up more a strength than a weakness, and even when there isn’t much going on, the landscapes still hold your attention with their sparse beauty.

Dir: John Curran
Star: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, Rolley Mintuma

Tiger of the Seven Seas


“Good, for the (Spanish) Main part”

tigerofthesevenseasAnother in the flurry of Italian female pirate flicks of the sixties, this stars Canale as Consuelo, the daughter of a pirate captain. After he retires from the buccaneering business, she defeats her lover, William (Steel) in a duel to decide who takes command. Her father is killed with William’s knife a short while after, but they are attacked by the Spanish forces of Governor Inigo de Cordoba (Calindri) before her boyfriend can be hung for the crime. In the ensuing confusion, William escapes, and makes off with the ship. Consuelo and her followers, hijack another vessel and give chase. But is William the real culprit, or is this part of a plan cooked up by the Governor’s scheming wife, Anna (Spina), who seeks to get her hands on the horde of treasure which was buried in a secret location by Consuelo’s father, before his death?

The action is a bit disappointing here, with most of the sword-fights consisting of not much more than the two participants standing at arm’s-length from each other, waving their weapons. The story is also rather predictable, with few if any of the developments being unexpected. We just know William is going to be proven innocent, even if he looks like a young, piratical version of Lou Reed. ]Maybe that’s just me?] What do work, are the characters, who are an enjoyable bunch to spend time with – even the villainous Anna, who is clearly the brains of the marriage. She’s an excellent foil for Consuelo, who is equally smart and brave; she certainly makes a strong first impression, hurling a knife at William, and embedding it in the trunk of a tree by his face.

The spectacle side of things is well-integrated, though I have an idea some of the footage may have been lifted from other pirate pictures, as it doesn’t quite seem to match; it was certainly not Capuano’s sole foray into the genre. Everything builds nicely to the standard adventure film cliche, #37: the masked ball, which Consuelo infiltrates in the cunning guise of…a pirate, to rescue William, after he made an ill-advised attempt to storm the fortress and abduct the traitor. This leads to an all-out battle, perhaps most remarkable for the “raining cannons” sequence, but despite what I said about the plot having no twists, I must admit, the final conclusion is not one I saw coming, with the villainess getting off surprisingly easily, compared to other potential fates. She actually gets the treasure, though at the cost of letting Consuelo and William go. I like to imagine the sequel has them heading back to reclaim her father’s loot, and I certainly wouldn’t have minded seeing more of their adventures, and it’s a shame no such follow-up ever emerged.

Dir: Luigi Capuano
Star: Gianna Maria Canale, Anthony Steel, Maria Grazia Spina, Ernesto Calindri

The Trail


“God told me to do it.”

thetrailI’m not religious, and “faith-based” films normally have me running a mile, though I confess a certain guilty fondness for the more extreme, Revelations-based work [I mean, have you ever read Revelations? The things that go down are certifiably insane. This is what Hollywood should be making, not Noah or Moses stories]. But it was only at the end of this, with a final title quoting a Bible verse, that I realized The Trail likely falls into the category, as shown by the alternate title; fortunately, it’s very much understated, and can be appreciated even by godless heathens like myself. Amelia (Jandreau) is on her way to California as part of a wagon train with her husband (Brown), when they decided to split off on their own, he believing he knows a short cut. Unfortunately, they are attacked by Indians, and Amelia is left, on her own, in the middle of nowhere, to try and make her way through a vast, unforgiving wilderness.

The closest cousin is Nicolas Roeg’s brilliant Walkabout, not least because Jandreau bears more than a passing resemblance to Walkabout‘s star, Jenny Agutter: both have a similar pale beauty, and habit of opening their mouths just a smidge. The similarity is also in the relationship Amelia strikes up with a young indigenous child (Nash) she meets, that proves crucial to her chances of survival, echoing the one in Roeg’s film. However, the take here is a good deal less earthy and primitive in its themes, and Amelia is a good deal less dependent, instead being a lot more pro-active, which is why it merits coverage on this site, being equally a story of self-discovery and survival against the odds. Indeed, perhaps its main weakness is, rather too much against the odds: while there’s not much idea of the overall timeframe here, she survives blizzards clad only in a light dress (the kid is sensibly wearing furs), and doesn’t seem to do much hunting or gathering beyond a tiny fish. Maybe that’s supposed to represent the power of her faith?

Despite throwing this on late at night, it managed to hold my interest better than you think it might, considering the lack of conventional action sequences: it’s more or less 95 minutes of Amelia versus the great outdoors. It helps that the heroine is given an inner strength of character – again, I presume in hindsight, this is a religious thing – and determination to overcome any obstacle, sometimes with inventiveness, such as when she turns her wedding dress into a fishing-net. The landscapes are fabulous, and the photography does both them and the heroine justice, capturing the latter with an almost luminescent glow. As a different take on the era, eschewing the obvious characters and situations, it’s worth a look if you’re in a more contemplative mood.

Dir: William Parker
Star: Jasmin Jandreau, Tommy Nash, Shannon Brown
a.k.a. Let God



“Punk’s not dead.”

traitorsWhat counts as an “action heroine” is dependent on culture. As was saw in Offside, if you’re Iranian, something as apparently normal as going to a football game can be a dangerously transgressive act. The heroine here, Malika (Ben Acha), has a little more freedom, living in Morocco, but it’s hardly an oasis of feminist freedom by Western standards. Still, she’s pretty out there, being the lead singer in a punk band, the titular Traitors, and also a dab hand with a monkey wrench, working intermittently in her father’s garage. It’s the former that she sees as her ticket out, and a door opens when a producer expresses interest in the band, and offers to help them record a demo. The catch? They have to pay for the studio time themselves: that’s several months’ wages, and it doesn’t help that Malika has just been fired. But a garage customer (Zeguendi) offers her a solution: a one-night job doing a little driving for him.

She’s under no illusions about the reality of what she’s driving, but on the journey from the mountains to Tangiers, she talks to her fellow “mule,” the veteran Amal (Issami), and discovers the unpleasant truths about those she’s working for – worse still, the people above them – as well as that leaving the organization will probably be a lot harder than joining it. When Malika finds out that Amal is pregnant, she hatches a plan that’s either very brave or extremely foolhardy (not that these things are mutually exclusive), to allow her colleague the change to escape. However, doing so will certainly bring down the wrath of her employers, who have a track record of not tolerating employee disloyalty with a forgiving eye.

This is one of those films that is on the fringes of qualification for the site. Malika doesn’t wield a gun or kick anyone’s arse,  but there’s an exchange between the two young women which convinced me of its worth, and that in spirit at least, the heroine is part of the sisterhood we cover here.

Amal: “There was a proverb my mother used to say: if you are the nail, you must endure the knocking.”
Malika: “That’s only half of the proverb. The other part is: if you are the hammer, strike.”

I want that on a T-shirt, and it exemplifies Malika’s attitude perfectly: she’s a hammer made flesh, like her hero, the late Joe Strummer. Of course, the downside of that is, when you’re a hammer, everything else starts looking like a nail. However, Ben Acha does a good job of making a character that could easily have been obnoxious and abrasive, sympathetic instead. The film’s biggest weakness is a script that seems to run out of steam before the end, without anything like a satisfactory climax; instead, it peters out in a not very satisfactory and largely unconvincing manner. Perhaps this is related to this feature being developed out of a short film featuring the same character? Still, it’s a unique little item, and who knew there was such as thing as Moroccan punk – even if it’s every bit as shitty as much of the Western variety!

Dir: Sean Gullette
Star: Chaimae Ben Acha, Soufia Issami, Driss Roukhe, Mourade Zeguendi



“Tigresa, tigresa, burning bright…”

tigresaTIL there’s a genre of cinema – indeed, an entire culture – called “Nuyorican”, which is for and by the immigrants from Puerto Rico who now live in and around New York. del Mar made five such movies, mostly in the late sixties, but this 1969 production is the sole action heroine entry. It has a nice sense of local atmosphere, feeling a bit like the early work of Abel Ferrara, but also has it’s moments of berserk insanity, which one can only presume must have made sense at the time.

The heroine is Patricia (Faith), a young woman who is bullied by her schoolmates, and whose life reaches a low after she is assaulted by a bedroom intruder, an attack which also results in the death of her father. But, in a plot twist I defy anyone to see coming, she is left half a million dollars in the last will of a Jewish store-owner for whom she works, and this lets Patricia dye her hair blonde and sets her up as the owner of a nightclub, the ‘Chateau Caribe’. She has also developed a heck of a lot more self-confidence, allowing her to take revenge on her former tormentors, rescue other women from assault and continue looking for the man responsible for her assault and her father’s demise. However, her friend, Maria (Lee), has plans to rob Patricia, with the help of her boyfriend, Jimmy (H) – who, it turns out, was also the rapist. They concoct a scheme for Jimmy to seduce Patricia, providing a distraction which will allow them to break into her safe.

There are also subplots involving the local mafiosi, and a police detective (Crespo), who doggedly attempts to solve the crime by dressing as a transvestite hooker. I’m not quite sure hoe that’s intended to work: it might take a while, to say the very least, and my instinct is it probably says more about the cop’s personal proclivities than anything. Certainly puts a new spin on “to protect and serve”. I liked Faith’s performance, since she genuinely manages to get your sympathy, as the dysfunctional nature of her relationship with her father becomes apparent. He gets drunk because its the only way he says he can see his late wife; so she then gets drunk, wanting to see her dead mother too. This is accompanied by a tinkly, music-box like score that’s quite poignant – well, up until the point that the musical cue gets overused to death, anyway.

After her transition into the tigresa [incidentally, the “La” part of the title seen on the DVD sleeve appears to be entirely the distributor’s addition], she’s still quite a laudable character, taking no shit from the organized crime boss. She refuses to let him use her club as a front for drugs and prostitution, but does partner with him in exchange for his help finding her attacker. Though this just consists of wandering local gyms trying to find someone with the distinctive back scar which was her assailant’s sole distinguishing feature – I’d have expected better from the mob. It’s just a good thing absolutely no-one in these places ever wears a shirt. There’s another bizarre diversion where she meets a gangster, who then goes home to discover his wife in bed with another man. So he drowns her in the bathtub and decapitates her lover, before vanishing from the film entirely.

Yeah, it’s like that: nonsensical in many ways, and obviously cheaply made, with performances all over the place, from the monotone to the hysterical. Yet it’s strangely hypnotic, and you find yourself watching, just to see what will happen next and in what surreal way things will develop. For all its many faults, I can’t say I ever found Tigresa dull. There are GWG films which are so forgettable, I find myself struggling to write 300 words on them. This was certainly not one of those.

Dir: Glauco del Mar
Star: Perla Faith, Johnny H, Cindy Lee, Guillermo Crespo

They Call Me Macho Woman!


“A B-movie, and entirely unashamed of it.”

macho womanLurking behind what has surely to be one of the worst titles in cinema history (truly a Troma creation), to my surprise, this is actually a solid enough little low-budget flick – albeit one that is straightforward to the point of idiocy. Widow Susan Morris (Sweeney – blonde, so definitely not the woman on the cover!) is out in the wilds. looking for a house where she can get away from it all. Unfortunately, she crosses paths with the monstrous Mongo (Oldfield, who reminds me of someone, but I can’t work out who) and his gang of drug-peddlers, and they do not take kindly to the interruption. It isn’t long before Susan has to find herself a new realtor. And that’s the least of her worries, as she finds herself perpetually in peril from the gang, who have every intent of raping and then killing her. Or maybe killing her, then raping her. They don’t seem too fussy about that. But everybody has their breaking point, and when they push Susan too far, she snaps, and takes the fight to her attackers.

Yes, it’s dumb. Yes, it’s cheap. Yes, it makes little or no sense, in particular her sudden transformation from plucky but largely ineffective heroine [who can’t even stab someone in a way that causes them more than moderate discomfort] into a warrior woman, capable of embedding a shiny axe in your head from 15 paces. But, you know what? It’s never boring, and I’ve sat through more than my fair share of low-budget crap that figures talk is cheap – so we’ll pad things out with lots and lots of that, before getting to anything approaching the meaty stuff. No such bait and switch here. We open with Mongo demonstrating his favourite weapon, a headpiece with a spike attached, which makes him look like a disgruntled unicorn, and after little more than five minutes of backstory involving Susan chatting to the real-estate agent, things kick off. And once they do, they don’t stop kicking until the final credits roll after 81 briskly entertaining minutes, as she is harried from one peril to the next, with laudable diligence (if variable competence) by Mongo and his henchmen.

Few involved here show any degree of acting talent, yet this shortcoming doesn’t matter very much, since we’re dealing with broad caricatures – let’s face it, subtlety would be a waste of time. There are some ludicrous mis-steps, such as the sequence where Susan escapes by running over the heads of the gang, which appears to have strayed in from a Jet Li movie. In what world does this even make sense? It could also have done with ramping up the exploitation elements considerably: much of the violence is implied (though the guy getting impaled on a nail was nicely done) and there’s no nudity. If talk is cheap, breasts are almost as inexpensive, and much more appreciated. It would also have helped if the stuntman used to stand-in for Sweaney, had been given a wig that matched her hair: hers is wavy, his is curly, and the difference is obvious. Yet I can’t bring myself to hate this, despite its obvious flaws. I was satisfactorily entertained, even without the use of alcohol.

Dir: Patrick G. Donahue
Star: Debra Sweaney, Brian Oldfield, Sean P. Donahue, Mike Donahue
a.k.a. Savage Instinct

Twins Mission


“To bead, or not to bead, that is the question…”

Twins_Mission-posterTwins Effect, the first film starring the Cantopop duo, Twins, was a frothily entertaining mix of action and humour, that was surprisingly entertaining. Its sequel? Despite a stellar supporting cast, and some great action, not so much, with a historical setting, and a balance that tilted unfavourably towards comedy. This third entry does at least return to the modern era, and also continues some impressively slick fights – and more broken glass than any other movie I can immediately think of – but has a similarly lumpy attitude, feeling almost like two films spliced together.

The McGuffin is a Tibetan relic called the Heaven’s Bead, long alleged to have magical powers to cure illness – which is actually pretty damn big, since I was expecting something that could be measured in millimetres, rather than feet. On its way by train, a robbery attempted staged by an evil collective of twins (rather than Twins, if you see what I mean) leads to it ending up in a bag belonging to the owner of a store in a Hong Kong mall. Meanwhile, good twins Pearl (Chung) and Jade (Choi) are working as trapeze artists in the circus, but end up helping the guardian of the bead, Uncle Lucky (Hung) and his adopted son (Wu) to track down the artefact. But the evil twins also have their agent, Lillian, who is lured in with the promise of the bead’s power being use to cure her cancer-stricken little sister, the unfortunately-named Happy.

Yes, this doesn’t exactly take the high road in terms of pathos, milking child illness for every ounce of maudlin sentimentality it can muster, when not making xenophobic jokes about the funny way foreigners speak. There is also a fight over an autographed picture of David Copperfield [Jade + Pearl’s idol], which ends with it being eaten by a hippo. This apparently tells us two things about China: people still care about David Copperfield, and it may be the only place where circuses that use wild animals are still welcome. I’m not sure which is more surprising, but that’s the level of nonsense between the action that you will have to endure, and I’m not sure the plot makes any actual sense in terms of logic or motivation. Fortunately, the saving grace is said action, with one standout fight between the good twins and several sets of evil twins in the mall, and another at the end, in the evil twins’ lair. Both are long, inventive sequences on finding new and interesting ways to break plate glass, though both the wire-fu and the stunt doubling for the starlets are a bit excessive.

I originally gave this 2.5 stars, then upped it to three, when I realized that was what I gave Twins Effect II, and this surely wasn’t any worse, was it? But on further reflection, it probably was, and I downgraded it again: there’s about 20 good minutes in this, and even Sammo couldn’t save the rest.

Dir: Kong Tao-Hoi
Star: Charlene Choi, Gillian Chung, Wu Jing, Sammo Hung