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The Twins Effect II
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Jaycee Fong, Gillian Chung, Charlene Choi and Wilson Chen in The Twins Effect II.

The Huadu Chronicles: Blade of the Rose

Chinese: 千機變 II - 花都大戰  
Year: 2004  
Director: Patrick Leung Pak-Kin, Corey Yuen Kwai

Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Gillian Chung Yun-Tung, Jaycee Chan, Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, Wilson Chen, Qu Ying, Fan Bing-Bing, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Daniel Wu, Edison Chen, Jim Chim Sui-Man, Jackie Chan

The Skinny: The fantasy setting of Twins Effect 2 allows for an entertaining start, but this sequel-in-name only gets really old really quick. This could be brain-dead fun for kids and teens, but given all its bells and whistles, The Twins Effect 2 easily qualifies as this year's biggest waste of time.
by Kozo:

This past summer, the Emperor Entertainment Group unveiled their latest marketing masterstroke, The Twins Effect II! Also known as The Huadu Chronicles, TE2 is made-to-order commercial crap for its intended preteen audience. To wit: it centers on a couple of adorable girls who save the world and line their pockets thanks to faked fighting skills and flawless smiles. The cute factor of TE2 should give it instant cred with anyone sporting a pulse. When Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung face off in a battle royale of cute kung-fu, you'd have to be dead not to find it as endearing as a trip to the Sanrio Store. But even a trip to the Sanrio Store has its downside. Sure it's fun and cute, but it wastes time and money, and does nothing to make the world a better place. And in the end, how many Hello Kitty staplers can one person own?

The terrible twosome star as inhabitants of a fantasy China in which women claim ownership of men. While that may sound just like the real world, the ownership described here is literal. The men are slaves (referred to as "dumbbells"), and their masters (called "Amazons") use them for menial labor and implied carnal pleasure. The sprightly 13th Young Master (Charlene Choi, who's as sassy and silly as her screen persona allows) is a slave trader, while Blue Bird (Gillian Chung, exuding adorable toughness) is an Imperial Enforcer in the employ of the perpetually unhappy evil Queen (Qu Ying).

The two first meet when they have an epic kiddy kung-fu battle that occurs thanks to reasons not unlike the classic martial arts films of old. Basically, one girl looks at the other in a way that neither likes, and then they start battling with cute kicks and semi-convincing wirework. Having the girls take on each other in the opening ten minutes is a narrative decision that should earn the screenwriter a raise. Yes, a convoluted semi-plot is about to be unleashed, but before any of that really happens we're already getting a Twin vs. Twin throwdown to satiate the masses. We should all clap politely as appreciation for the filmmakers' hard work.

When the girls settle down, they almost immediately get drawn into an epic "save the kingdom" conflict that threatens to change their lives and last about one hundred minutes. The rebel leader, named Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Donnie Yen, in an extended cameo), is leading a charge to dethrone the evil Queen, who's not really evil, but sure acts that way. Her turn to the dark side was all due to a broken heart, and is revealed in a stylishly-told flashback that comes complete with love, betrayal, and even castration.

But there exists a prophecy of the "Star of Rex", a destined hero who will wield the mighty "Excalibur" and bring peace to the land by uniting the men and women as equals. At first, Blue Bird is sent to find and stop the Star of Rex from ever getting his hands on the Excalibur, but she begins to get all mushy on one of the two candidates, namely Charcoal Head (Jaycee Fong), a too-nice dope who hangs with the other candidate, the roguish Blockhead (Wilson Chen of Blue Gate Crossing). It's Blockhead that 13th Young Master is sent to catch, but she too starts to get googly-eyed over her quarry.

Big surprise, the girls pair off with these two dopes, meaning big names Daniel Wu and Edison Chen are resigned to glorified cameos and not leading men duty. This is all due to the masterful manipulation of the Emperor Music Group, who own the services of both Wilson Chen and Jaycee Fong, two young turks that EMG has anointed as future moneymakers. In Wilson Chen's case, it's not such a bad deal, since the kid has a roguish Takeshi Kaneshiro-like charm that works well with Charlene Choi's usual fussy silliness.

However, Jaycee Fong is a total cipher, and displays the screen charisma of a cardboard standee of Jackie Chan—an apt comparison, since Fong happens to be Chan's real-life offspring. For proof, one only has to look at Fong's enlarged schonzz, which is the only way that Fong channels any Jackie Chan whatsoever. Unlike his famous pop, Fong doesn't kick, punch, or perform any death-defying stunts that make the audience stand up and take notice. He also doesn't engage in any self-effacing comedy like Chan did, which begs the ultimate question: why is this guy on the screen? Well, that's simple: he's Jackie Chan's son. Good game, EMG.

Still, such brainless casting is no big surprise since The Twins Effect II is avowed commercial crap that's designed to do just one thing: make money. Creativity and the desire to tell a good story were not factors in this film's creation. All EEG was looking for was a way to package their idols into one big mega-production, and hopefully sucker unsuspecting teens into checking out their fave idols (the Twins, Edison Chen), and hopefully find new ones (Wilson Chen, Jaycee Fong). The result: hopefully more albums and DVDs sold, and the further decline of Hong Kong Cinema as anything resembling the gonzo anything-goes moviemaking machine of the eighties and nineties.

Everything about The Twins Effect II seems carefully calculated by marketing—except maybe the script, which is uninspired and dependent on too many semi-amusing interludes which are meant to pass for actual content. The kids bicker and poke fun, and the ubiquitous Jim Chim Sui-Man (this year's winner of the Chapman To Overexposed Award) shows up as a moleman who acts annoying and gratingly out-of-place. There's also a big showdown between Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan, which happens because somebody at EEG decreed: "We gotta get Donnie Yen and Jackie Chen to fight. It's money, baby!" Well, they did it, and the result is a decently-played fight sequence. But again, it's totally out of place and has nothing to do with anything else that happens in the film. Go figure.

Ultimately, The Twins Effect II compares favorably to the original, as that was also a marketing meeting stretched into a two-hour movie. However, when that film was reviewed last year, I managed to give it a passable "it's crap, but cute" review that basically said that the Twins were enough to save the film. Well, the same cannot be said for The Twins Effect II, partly because it's not the Twins who carry this film. Nope, it's an ensemble of mismatched players, some good, some bad, and most deserving better than this rehashed collection of clichés.

Granted, the costumes and art direction are intriguing, and the fantasy setting gives the film a "kid's flick" feel that's quite fitting for the Twins, who happen to be a big hit with the tykes. The brief moments of action are passable, and again, the Twins are as cute as a trip to the petting zoo. Still, the movie really goes nowhere, especially during a protracted finale that mixes the crass (the Queen's "curse" is comically lame) with the depressing (plot devices save the day, and not a swift kick to someone's rear). At the same time, it's conceivable that the cuteness, color, and CGI on display will divert those who have come to know moviemaking as the creation of disposable celluloid crap. If the Twins and some expensive-looking bells and whistles are enough to fill your entertainment plate, then you're welcome to this film. But for me it's not enough, not anymore. (Kozo 2004)

Awards: 24th Hong Kong Film Awards
• Nomination - Best New Artist (Jaycee Chan)
• Nomination - Best Costume Design and Make-up (Lei Bik-Kwan)
• Nomination - Best Action Design (Corey Yuen Kwai)
• Nomination - Best Visual Effects (Wong Won-Tak, Wong Won-Hin, Yu Kwok-Leung)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Joy Sales
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Making Of, Trailers, Music Video
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image courtesy of EMG Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen