A serious sibling rivalry forces auds to pick which twin is the phony in “The Second Woman.” Although this low-budget effort reps a technical advance for helmer Carol Lai after previous efforts like “The Third Eye,” thunder and lightning aren’t sufficient to generate scares in this cliche-ridden thriller. The presence of Taiwanese star Shu Qi will garner some interest across Chinese territories, but adds no value elsewhere.Residents of an unnamed Chinese seaside village, twin sisters Bao and Xiang (both played by Shu) have the same thespian ambitions, but only Bao, in rehearsals for a legit piece written by her co-star/lover, Nan (Shawn Yue), has found success. Envious Xiang wants her sister’s stardom and b.f., so when Xiang’s disappearance coincides with a sudden improvement in Bao’s acting, suspicions arise. Helming is stultifying, lensing flat; Shu, who’s been on a roll with big-budget pics lately, looks dismayed to be in the film even once, let alone twice. Hong Kong co-star Yue punches the clock. Easy interaction between the two Shus indicates how accessible advanced technology is, even for low-budgeters. Other tech credits are OK.
A Joy Pictures Co., Sun Entertainment Culture, Joy Media Co., China Movie Channel production. (International sales: Golden Scene, Hong Kong.) Produced by Gordan Chan. Executive producers, Dong Zhaohui, Chau Cheokwa, Song Ge, Yan Xiaoming. Directed by Carol Lai. Screenplay, Carol Lai, Lai Ho.
Camera (color, widescreen, HD-to-35mm), Johnny Choi; editor, Kwong Chi-leung; music, Raymond Wong; art director, Silver Cheung. Reviewed at Hong Kong Filmart, March 21, 2012. Running time: 98 MIN.
Shu Qi, Shawn Yue, Chen Shu, Xi Meijuan, Zhang Naitian, Niu Mengmeng. (Mandarin dialogue)