Twitter UpdatesMy Tweets
Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Jackie Chan’s Twin Dragons (released in 1992 in Hong Kong and 1999 in the U.S.) is an incredibly silly, fun little movie that gets often over-looked in Chan’s enormous filmography. Directed by Tsui Hark (with an assist from Ringo Lam), Twin Dragons came about a few short years before Chan’s big break-through in the states (1995’s Rumble in the Bronx — which I need to cover for my 1995 feature, obviously), but a few too many years after his 1980s classics like Project A and the Armour of the Gods movies. Thus, the film is placed in a kind of no man’s land for Chan. Little seen, even in its time in Hong Kong theaters (it was the 9th highest grossing film of that year, says Wikipedia), Twin Dragons is pretty widely available on DVD and Blu Ray, and well worth the price I paid ($7.99 for a double feature with Supercop, making it an even better deal).
The film opens some time in the 1960s, where an expectant mother and father are surprised by the appearance of twin boys. Due to outstanding circumstances, one of the baby boys is kidnapped almost immediately, then winding up in the hands of a drunken party girl. The other boy accompanies his parents as they emigrate to the United States. As you might imagine, the children grow up in vastly different lifestyles. Boomer, the Hong Kong twin, becomes a race car driver, mechanic, and part-time amateur would-be criminal. John Ma, the United States twin, becomes a renown pianist and composer, growing up with a silver spoon in his mouth. When John returns to Hong Kong to put on an anticipated concert, he is unwittingly reunited with his smooth-talking, criminal twin brother. Outrageously comedic circumstances obviously arise.
This is not a typical Jackie Chan movie; Twin Dragons is best viewed in the mindset of a farcical comedy first and a martial arts film second. The tone is silly, light, and incredibly comedic, even for Jackie Chan standards. Hark shoots the film in the style of a slapstick American comedy and Chan gives a wild comic performance as the twins. The funniest parts of Twin Dragons are the mistaken identity gags, and they abound in the film. One funny sequence has Chan’s Boomer and John Ma attempting to trick his would-be love interest in a hot tub. The martial arts segments are also strong, and the showdown in a car factory is a unique environment to stage an ultimate battle in. Also great throughout are the female leads, played by Maggie Cheung and Nina Li. I like how these actresses bring heart to the film, especially Cheung. Her scenes with John Ma, who she comically mistakes for Boomer, are surprisingly romantic and sweet; Cheung was never cuter than she was here.
Twin Dragons was a pretty big failure, both in Hong Kong and domestically. The film grossed less than ten million after a short domestic release, making it Chan’s worst performing film in the U.S. by far. Even in Hong Kong, Twin Dragons was perceived as a failure. Legend says the film was created as a means to help fund some kind of Hong Kong actors and directors charitable project, but nothing ever came of this (probably because the movie ended up making very little money). Many talented Hong Kong actors and filmmakers had some sort of hand in Twin Dragons, including Ringo Lam (who directed most of the action sequences), John Woo (who makes a cameo), and Chinese actor/personality Eric Tsang (a friend of Chan’s also in a cameo). Despite its toxic reputation, I still found a lot to like about Twin Dragons. Chan’s double performance is quite good, the one-liners and quippy dialogue are quite funny, and Maggie Cheung is quite cute throughout. It’s not the best Chan film of the 90s (not even close), but it is a lot of fun.