Latest vehicle showcasing Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung finds the duo battling extra-terrestrial vampire batpeople in their first action comedy. In Hong Kong, meaty summertime hit outgrossed "Matrix Reloaded" and outgunned only by "Finding Nemo." With right marketing, pic could have chance in West, especially on ancillary with inquisitive "Buffy" buffs.

You don’t have to be a fan of Hong Kong’s wildly popular popsters Twins to be affected by “The Twins Effect,” but it helps glide over some of the downtime in this otherwise enjoyable slice of bubblegum entertainment. Latest and most ambitious vehicle showcasing Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung finds the diminutive duo battling extra-terrestrial vampire batpeople in their first action comedy. Meaty summertime hit chocked up HK$28.4 million ($3.5 million), outgrossing “Matrix Reloaded” and outgunned only by “Finding Nemo.” With the right marketing, pic could have some chances in the West, especially on ancillary with inquisitive “Buffy” buffs.

The third movie to star Choi and Chung together, following last year’s “Summer Breeze of Love” and “Just One Look,” pic is basically a string of romantic-comic-action episodes strung on a clothesline plot and decorated with star cameos, including Jackie Chan (as a nervous groom-cum-ambulance driver) and Karen Mok (as his drunken bride). Despite some sprightly action stuff helmed by Donnie Yen, the surprise is that the movie is at its best when Twins are simply doing their charming bopper shtick opposite each other and male stars Ekin Cheng and Edison Chen.

Balletic opening reel sets up the background as, in 2046, vampire hunters Reeve (Cheng) and Lila (Josie Ho) take on a bunch of the bloodthirsty critters in a western railroad station. Largely shot in slo-mo, with a satanic/poppy orchestral score and minimal other sound effects, impressive sequence ends with the death of Lila and with Reeve forswearing love forever.

Later in Hong Kong, Reeve takes on a rookie volunteer, Gipsy Chan (Chung), who’s been looking for payback since the batpeople killed her parents. At his apartment, she meets his younger sister, Helen (Choi), and the two engage in some verbal and physical sparring before palling up.

Since being dumped by her b.f. (Chapman To), Helen, unbeknownst to her brother, has started seeing a vampire prince, Kazaf (Chen), who lives in a church (don’t ask) with holy man Prada (Anthony Wong, coasting). Kazaf has sworn off drinking human blood, so one night Helen breaks into a hospital blood bank to help the enfeebled young vampire.

Main plot development is Gipsy, and then Reeve, discovering Helen has fallen for a bloodsucker. But all that is pushed aside as the forces of darkness, led by the Duke (Mickey Hardt), lead an assault on the church to get a vampire Bible, called “Day for Night,” which will give him unstoppable power.

Lengthy final set piece, packed with wire work and CGI, is played for fun and laffs, with the Twins tossed around like tiny rag dolls in Yen’s witty action choreography. But it’s the earlier, quieter moments in which the duo really excel, recalling their other movies, both together and separately, in which they’ve charmingly melded brattiness and spunkiness to carve screen careers.

Cheng, who’s recently gone for a more relaxed image since he cut his flowing locks, partners well with Chung; Chen is more low-key as the anemic vampire prince. Among the cameos, Mok briefly outshines megastar Chan, who overstays his welcome with an action sequence that’s out of kilter with the overall mood of the pic.

The Twins Effect

Hong Kong

Production

An Emperor Multimedia Group release and presentation of a Million Channel production. (International sales: Arclight Films, Sydney.) Produced by Albert Yeung. Executive producer, Carl Chang. Directed by Dante Lam. Co-director, Donnie Yen. Screenplay, Chan Hing-kai, Jack Ng.

Crew

Camera (color), Cheung Man-po; editor, Chan Ki-hop; music, Chan Kwong-wing; art director, Bill Lui; costume designers, Jessie Dai, Connie Au-yeung; image designer, Yee Chung-man; sound, Dolby Digital; visual effects supervisor, Eddy Wong; digital effects supervisor, Yee Kwok-leung; action director, Yen; associate producer, Bey Logan. Reviewed on videodisc, London, Sept. 18, 2003. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Charlene Choi, Gillian Chung, Ekin Cheng, Edison Chen, Anthony Wong, Mickey Hardt, Josie Ho, Maggie Lau, Mandy Chiang, Jackie Chan, Karen Mok, Lam Sheung-yi, Cheung Tat-ming, Chapman To, Matt Chow. (Cantonese dialogue)

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