“Film with the trajectory of a ski race; starts off high, goes downhill fast.”
I liked, and enjoyed the original film, and at first, this seems to have a great chance at surpassing it. The opening fight between our two heroines, one (Choi) a slave-trader, the other (Chung) an enforcer for the Empress, is a masterpiece that combines wire-work, CGI and gimmickry – camerawork from Azumi and what looks like a mutant Klingon batleth – to fabulous (if not fully convincing) effect. All this in a mythical kingdom where women rule, and men are reduced to “dumbbells”, while the cast includes both Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen. Even if the connection to the original is tenuous at best, the potential here doesn’t need to be specified.
However, it all goes horribly wrong. Our heroines team up with a pair of jackasses, appropriately named Blockhead (Chen) and Charcoal Head (the talentless Fong, present only because he’s Jackie Chan’s son), and their presence sucks the life from proceedings. One of them – but nobody knows which one – is the ‘Star of Rex’, a future ruler who can defeat the evil empress (Qu Ying) with the aid of the sword, Excalibur. No, really; it must have been on loan from Camelot. As you can imagine, the film proceeds to implode with spectacular speed, a downward spiral that only briefly flattens for a duel between Yen and Chan – the former playing a character called ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’. Oh, hold my aching sides. Even the finale is largely mundane, though the use of an icicle as a weapon by the empress did get our attention.
On the plus side, both Twins put in surprisingly solid performances – Choi, in particular, is much less irritating than before, though remains outshone by Chung. However, they still aren’t enough on their own to sustain a movie, despite the parade of celebrity cameos, especially when co-stars Chen and Fong are woefully short of the mark. With a $10.2 million budget, I just wish they’d spent a few more dollars on the script and some decent actors. Then, it might have lived up to the marvellous first fifteen minutes.
Dir: Patrick Leung, Corey Yuen
Star: Charlene Choi, Gillian Chung, Jaycee Fong, Wilson Chen Bo-Lin