Those zany, Cantopop princesses Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi, otherwise known as “Twins”, are back for another colourful kung fu caper. As the title suggests, this time round the girls deliver their take on the glossy heist genre and spy thrillers, but with customarily surreal detours into slapstick, melodrama and gross-out horror.
In an excitingly staged train robbery, the mystical “Heaven’s Bead” - reputed to cure all illnesses and prevent natural disasters - is stolen while en route from Tibet to Hong Kong, by a mysterious gang with connections to the sinister Gemini Cult. Protector of the bead, Uncle Luck (superstar jack-of-all-trades, Sammo Hung) and super-kung fu skilled adopted son, Lau Hay (Jacky Wu Jing) enlist help from disgraced former cult member, Chang Chung (Yuen Wah), who in turn reaches out to his long-lost students, Jade (Charlene Choi) and Pearl (Gillian Chung).
Estranged from their “father” and reluctant at first, the dynamic duo probe this mystery involving beautiful heiress Lillian Li (Jess Zhang), her terminally ill kid sister (Kao Lip Yi), sleazy blackmailing archaeologist Professor Mok (Sek Sau), the gruesome slaying of a sex shop worker, an elaborate high-tech heist, and a gang comprised entirely of identical twins. What no-one suspects is the mastermind behind it all is none other than Chang’s own evil twin, Chang Yung (Yuen Wah, naturally). It’s up to Lau Hay and the girls to foil his villainous schemes.
Making his directorial debut, veteran stunt choreographer Kong Tao Hoi delivers the sleekest, most visually stylish Twins movie yet. His camera glides through opulent sets and locations (a mist-drenched mountain, a luxurious mansion) and trails the slinky, cat-suited duo as they wriggle through trapdoors and laser-guarded lairs. Spoofing the likes of Mission Impossible (1996) and Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Choi and Chung sport the usual high-tech spy-wear, plus more unorthodox gadgetry like Charlene’s inflatable breasts (it’s a long story…).
Kong Tao Hoi and co-screenwriter/second unit director Tsui Siu Ming craft an occasionally wayward, yet emotionally involving story that weaves in themes of family, loyalty and loss, and cleverly plays with the whole Twins concept. The plot has Gillian and Charlene pit their wits against villains played by real-life twins, plus the Chang Chung/Chang Yung opposition (“My girlfriend once mistook him for me and now she’s his wife!”), and a subplot involving Lau Hay and his cancer-afflicted twin brother.
Silly and occasionally sentimental, the film nonetheless emerges as a fast-paced, frantically entertaining adventure with an infectious sense of fun. The dynamic fight choreography includes nods to HK classics like My Lucky Stars (1985), Armour of God (1986), and Fist of Fury (1971), with Gillian and Charlene’s glass-shattering, rope-swinging battle with twins Mona and Lisa, an undoubted highlight. Goofy gags include the heroines’ bizarre obsession with David Copperfield (!) curtailed by a hungry hippo (?!), Sam Lee’s cameo as a dim-witted cop struggling to interrogate a gaggle of multi-ethnic murder witnesses, and Steven Cheung as a sex toyshop worker who has hula girl fantasies about Gillian and Charlene. And who can blame him. Plus the movie takes a surprising detour into gory horror when one unlucky man is force-fed rabies-infected rats that erupt from his chest, Alien (1979) style!
On the downside, owing to their hectic schedules as multimedia superstars, the girls are absent for long stretches of action. A neck injury Choi sustained while filming the chop-socky finale didn’t help matters, but the girls do perform a crowd-pleasing, bungee-jumping rescue for the climax. Fortunately, talented co-star Jacky Wu Jing takes up the slack. A phenomenal martial artist with a likeable screen persona reminiscent of the young Jackie Chan, he’s a far cry from previous deadweight Twins leading men Edison Chen and Jaycee Chan. Whether displaying his acrobatic prowess, flirting with Choi, or performing magic tricks for a sick little girl, he’s a compelling presence. Veteran supporting players Sammo Hung - proving he’s lost none of his speed or stamina - and Yuen Wah are clearly enjoying themselves in this family-friendly yarn, while the candy-coloured cinematography imparts a breezy, fairytale feel.
Everyone gets their chance to shine in the finale where, after sitting out a lot of the plot, Sammo makes a great, cigar-chomping return, a highly animated Wu Jing fights six bad guys at a time, and Gillian and Charlene face down four, giant CGI snakes. Highlight of the movie: when a fifth snake shows up, Gillian bites its head off! A cliffhanger ending leaves the way open for a sequel which sadly, given the silly furore over Gillian’s nude photos scandal, looks unlikely to happen.