Twin Dragons – Action and Comedy Duke It Out

Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Action/Comedy
Director: Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam
Year: 1992

Rating: ★★★☆☆


In any Jackie Chan movie, there are bound to be some cool stunts and some decent fighting, and Twin Dragons is no exception. You can also expect some goofy comedy, and here’s where Twin Dragons goes wrong. The balance between the action and comedy is off.

Jackie plays Ma Yau and Wan Ming, two brothers separated at birth. Ma Yau grows up to be a concert pianist, while Wan Ming becomes a mechanic with martial arts skills. The problems begin when Ma Yau shows up to play a concert in Hong Kong. Since the two brothers are identical in appearance, they are constantly being mistaken for one another by gangsters, officials, and their respective girlfriends, Barbara (the charming Maggie Cheung) and Tong Sum (played by otherworldly beauty Nina Li Chi).

The various permutations of the mistaken identity plot can be very amusing, especially when it involves the girlfriends, but directors Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam overplay their hand. The mistaken identity gags go on for far too long. It doesn’t help that since concert pianist Ma Yau can’t fight, any scenes with him in them pretty much have to be oriented towards comedy.

There is also a distressing lack of judgement at times. Even back in 1992, having a dozen characters faint when they see the two brothers together was cheesy and laugh free. That comic beat was used up by the 1940s.

It seems to me, considering the talent involved in this production, they could have come up with more interesting and amusing complications for the two brothers that would have allowed for more action to be integrated into the comedy.

There’s a certain sloppy quality to some of Twin Dragons. For example, at one point circumstances force gangster Wan Ming into conducting an orchestra. He does an incredibly bad job of it and winds up getting a standing ovation. That might have worked if the audience interpreted the performance as a radical reworking of the piece, an interpretation that would have been supported by the piece slowing down and speeding up at odd times, which would have added to the hilarity as well. As it is, the standing ovation just rings false. Even in broad and light comedy, scenes have to have an internal logic to them, or they take the audience out of the picture.

In one scene in which the two Jackie Chans confront each other in a men’s room, Jackie’s sight line is off, so it’s obvious that he’s not really looking at his double. That’s sloppy directing and really could have been avoided. Didn’t anyone look at the dailies?

And what’s with the visible cables attaching Tyson (Teddy Robin Kwan) to a huge magnet? I can’t believe they weren’t erased in post production. That’s just lame.

It’s kind of a shame, given the wonderful character actors the directors had to work with, which was typical for the period. James Wong (also a composer on many Hong Kong flicks), Sylvia Chang, Kirk Wong (the great director, who plays the heavy, Crazy Bull), David Chiang, and Phillip Chan are all wonderful in their roles.

For Hong Kong film buffs, there’s also the fun of spotting famous Hong Kong filmmakers such as Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, Wong Jing, Gordon Chan, John Woo, Teddy Yip, and Ng See-Yuen in cameos.

For all it’s shortcomings, I have to admit that Twin Dragons does provide some entertainment. It’s just a bit of a disappointment coming from two of the best directors working in Hong Kong at the time, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam.

Reading back over this review, it looks like a pan. I guess that goes to show how much I love Hong Kong action pictures.

Watch out for the wretched dubbed version.

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