Origin: Hong Kong
Chinese Title: "Chin Gei Been" (which roughly translates to A Thousand Changes; in Mandarin the title is "Qian Ji Bian")
Director: Dante Lam Chiu Yin
Action Choreography: Donnie Yen Ji Dan
Genre: Teenage Romance thinly veiled as an action-comedy
Charlene Choi Cheuk Yin (Ah Sa from Twins)
Gillian Chung Yan Tong (Ah Giu from Twins)
Ekin Cheng Yi Gin
Edison Chen Koon Hei
Anthony Wong Chau Sang
Jackie Chan ("Sing Long")
Karen Mok Man Wai
Cameo appearance by Josie Ho Chiu Yee and Chapman To
Who is Who
Reeve The Vampire Slayer (played by Ekin Cheng)
Aloof and reserved with dashing (not) hair to boot, Reeve is one of the top vampire hunters in the Anti-Vampire League. The League provides its employees with vampire blood to give them temporary power. The vampire blood must be "released" from the hunters' bodies in the form of an antidote disguised by banana essence, otherwise the hunters become real vampires themselves. Anyway, Reeve is after his 124th kill in the form of Duke Dekontes (played by Mickey Hardt; more on him later), one of the most powerful vampires in Vampireland (or wherever these bloodsuckers are from -- it's not made clear in the movie). After losing his partner-lover Lila (played by Josie Ho) in a battle against Duke Dekontes, Reeve vows to never fall in love with his partner again...
Helen The Fake Juliet (played by Charlene Choi)
Reeve's younger sister who has inherited some of his kung-fu skills but does not belong to the League. When we first meet her she's forcing her boyfriend (played by Chapman To, appearing in his 700th Hong Kong film of the year) to cut off a part of his body per his promise because he has apparently cheated on her (probably because of her non-existent fashion sense). A fingernail removal later, Helen is comforted by vampire royalty Kazaf, who immediately takes a shine to her spunky disposition. The two begin an odd courtship, superimposed by the fact that Kazaf can't stay in the sun for long, sleeps in a dope coffin (complete with plasma TV and neon lights whose lid opens when it hears you clap) and downs blood disguised as red wine. You'd think a sister of a vampire slayer would smell some fish, but nope. At least, not until Kazaf tells Helen about his identity. But alas, Juliet loves Romeo anyway despite his less-than-typical diet...
Kazaf The Light Prince (played by Edison Chen)
The fifth prince of Vampireland who can be seen as either the wimpiest vampire since Count Dracula or the most good-hearted one to walk the dark streets. You see, Kazaf refuses to suck blood from victims' necks and instead drinks blood from wine glasses. Of course, we can all conveniently forget the fact that the blood must come from somewhere, whether from Kazaf's servant-aid Prada (played by a deliciously cast Anthony Wong) or from Papa King who probably has dozens of servants to do the dirty deed and mail the blood back to his fifth heir. Anyway, Kazaf moves into a church in Hong Kong (probably the most ironic of ironies) with Prada and begins a sweet relationship with Helen. He also suscepts to near-famine when his food supply runs short as Helen rushes him to a hospital to steal blood. Not only this, but all is not well in Vampireland. Duke Dekontes, Kazaf's uncle, is after the throne and has killed the other five princes. He is now after Kazaf, the last remaining heir whose "inner stone" must be possessed in order to open Day for Night, the vampire bible that bestows the ability to hunt during the day (i.e. become The Ruler of Vampireland)...
Gypsy The Reeve Groupie (played by Gillian Chung)
Reeve's new partner-in-hunting who also happens to idolize-love Reeve. Never mind the fact that their pairing's just creepy as ever. Of course, Reeve remains passive to Gypsy's affections due to his aforementioned vow despite the fact that she cooks, cleans, and irons for him. Of course, Gypsy does not get along with Helen, and the two have a ridiculously hilarious fight over a teddy bear complete with unfeasible acrobatics and hops on the walls. But then, of course, the two bond. This is a movie with the Twins, for crying out loud...
Get To The End Already
So Duke Dekontes tracks down Kazaf and waits for him in his church-home, at the same time Reeve tracks the Duke down. Of course, Reeve meets his demise at the hands of Helen and Gypsy, who must kill him since he has become a vampire. Kazaf tries in vain to save Prada, who has been taken hostage by the Duke. Prada dies anyway, and the Duke sucks the stone out of Kazaf, who is already pale and sickly from lack of food (but surprisingly doesn't die, although he doesn't have the strength to retaliate). Meanwhile, Helen and Gypsy exercise their girl power à la Spice Girls by taking on fifty-odd vampires via impressive wirework and stunt doubles. They then take on the Duke, who has opened Day for Night but loses most of its power to Gypsy, who succeeds in swallowing the bigger portion of the Mega Stone that emerges from the big scary book. Helen is struck down, and Gypsy becomes a vampire herself and the two of them eventually kill off the villain. The End.
So What is Jackie Chan Doing in the Movie?
I asked that myself many times while watching the movie. In his much-publicized appearance in this movie, Jackie Chan (playing Jackie, duh) plays a hilarious paramedic who himself does some stunts battling some bloodsuckers chasing after Helen and Kazaf. He is introduced in the movie as the groom to an equally comic Karen Mok.
What About the Vampires?
The vampires here are not the usual HK (Hong Kong) brand who hop everywhere with their arms sticking out and can only be tamed by a yellow piece of paper stuck to their foreheads. Instead, the vampires in "The Twins Effect" are Caucasian, dress all in black with sunken eyes that are complimented with big scary sky-blue pupils. They make sounds akin to Jurassic Park growls, and when stabbed they disappear in digital dust à la Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The bloodsuckers also have impressive Spiderman wall-walking abilities.
And the Twins?
In case you've been living in a cave for the past two or three years, Twins (Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung) have taken HK pop by storm and are the EEG (Emperor Entertainment Group, the label to the HK music industry akin to what the US is to the world economy -- a monopoly superpower) popstar darlings, a.k.a. cash cows. In my opinion, as singers they are talentless. In Hong Kong, the side requirement to being a singer is being an actor, and so Twins have since starred in a couple of movies.
I'll say right now that (unlike many) I've always liked Charlene more than Gillian. I agree that, on the surface, Gillian is prettier, but she's a bland kind of pretty. As actresses, I find Charlene a lot more versatile (although that doesn't say much since Gillian's face is basically vapid in films). I do believe that Charlene is cute as ever, although this image will no longer work for her next year or so. This film is no different, although I'm seeing pint-sized improvements from Gillian. Although she's virtually expressionless during 90% of the movie, I enjoyed her performance when she turns into a vampire battling the Duke. Charlene fares a lot better, as her spunky presence on the screen just makes you want to hug her. But of course, she also has a long way to go in terms of acting, BUT, her cute character, Anthony Wong, and the action sequences save this movie from doom-dom.
I cannot help but compare the Twins. I mean, they're together everywhere! It's really hard not to. What I'm basically trying to say is that Charlene is a lot more believable, and if she continues working I do think she may have a future in acting in Hong Kong. Gillian, on the other hand, is hopeless.
The Y Chromosome Performances
Well, boring. Ekin Cheng stars in his 700th role as a supercool-reserved-killer-of-some-sort. I have never liked him much and probably never will. He can't act, isn't good-looking, and can't sing, so frankly I see no use for him in the HK entertainment industry whatsoever except to quench the HK media's thirst about his relationship with singer Gigi Leung. He's okay in here, but only in the action sequences, which are mostly done by stunt doubles anyway. As for Edison Chen, he also stars in his 700th role as the pretty-boy-hero who sweeps cute girls off their feet. His character Kazaf was a potentially interesting one, but of course the writers had to make him even more dreamy by making his character a non-blood-sucking vampire, thus making him a wimp prince who probably doesn't deserve the vampire throne anyway. Edison Chen doesn't act much in this movie either, although he fares better than Ekin Cheng, especially in his scenes with Anthony Wong. Speaking of Anthony Wong, he does more with his role in "The Twins Effect" than the rest of the cast combined, which is usually the case with all of his other movies that he does with the HK teen idols of the day. The guy is simply hilarious in here as Prada who humours his non-blood-sucking master. Note especially the comic expressions on Anthony Wong's face as he sniffs human Helen and the real estate agent. Brilliant!
Things That Make You Go "HUH?"
Take your pick. The plot for this film has so many gaps that they could swallow Earth whole. First of all, why doesn't Helen realize that Kazaf is a vampire until he tells her? Also, Reeve vows to never fall in love with his partner again. Here's an idea. Get a male partner! How does Gillian fall in love so quickly with Reeve? The same could be said for Helen and Kazaf, although their love is more believable since it's mostly puppy love- well, until Kazaf "proposes" to Helen in the romantic setting of a convenience store. What about Duke Dekontes? The only thing we know about him is that he has red eyes and is after the throne. We get no history about Vampireland and its royalty. Speaking of, isn't Kazaf one of the princes? Doesn't the vampire palace keep in touch with its heirs? How does he not know every single brother of his is dead and that he's now being hunted? And by the way, all the other princes and vampires are Caucasian, and Kazaf (although Edison Chen speaks fluent English) is not. How does that work? There are too many unexplained things in the movie, so I won't bother going into specifics in this review, since the movie doesn't either.
Hong Kong movies seem to suffer from an ailment whereby the singers appearing in the movie are also heard on the soundtrack. It is both a wonder and a blessing that this is not the case in "The Twins Effect". Of course, the alternative chosen is a cheesy but not totally disastrous mix of a Beethoven-Enya kind of song that is unfortunately overused. Oh well.
To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question
Those of the EEG fanclub will not want to miss this one at all, and I daresay myself that, despite the lackluster performances, the action sequences of this movie, coupled with Anthony Wong and Charlene Choi, do make "The Twins Effect" an entertaining HK cinematic experience. I find that the horror is more hilarity than anything, and quite a few laughs can be brought about. Charlene Choi is as cute as ever and Gillian Chung makes an interesting mighty vampire. I would recommend this movie to those who enjoy HK movies, and even to those who enjoy action-comedies in general, since most of the wirework and action sequences are quite reminiscent of the Hollywood blockbuster "The Matrix" (one of my favourite movies ever). Yes, "The Twins Effect" is perhaps the guiltiest pleasure of the new HK movies yet.
Extra, Extra Read All About It
"The Twins Effect" took first place at the HK box office the first week it was released. It also won a Golden Horse Award (the Taiwanese film awards) for Best Action. Edison Chen and Shawn Yu (another EEG singer) have been rumoured to have gotten into a brawl over Gillian Chung. Gillian Chung was originally the more popular one of the Twins but recently people have realized that Charlene is the more versatile and likeable performer. The three young stars of this movie have lovelife rumours with just about every other young HK singer. Edison Chen has been tied to Bobo Chan, Stephy Tang (from Mini Cookies, who he worked with in Nine Girls and a Ghost), and both of the Twins (who are not twins in real life). Gillian Chung has been tied to everyone on the face of the planet, and Charlene Choi has been tied to Wong Yau Lam from HK boyband Shine. Charlene Choi also appeared her second movie NOT to star both Twins earlier this year, as the female lead in Diva Ah Hey. Edison Chen is now on the big screen playing Young Ming (Andy Lau's character) in the HK blockbuster crime thriller Infernal Affairs 2 The Prequel, opposite big names including Anthony Wong, Eric Tsui, and Carina Lau.