Ticket buyers get two Jackie Chans for the price of one in “Twin Dragons,” but the pic itself is no great bargain. Dimension Films has unearthed, re-edited and English-dubbed “Seung Lung Wui,” co-directed by Ringo Lam and Tsui Hark, which was a big hit in Hong Kong in 1992 and has long been widely available on video in the U.S. and elsewhere in an earlier English-dubbed version. Production values are notably inferior to similar domestic product, and even Chan — who has now dubbed his own voice for each of his dual roles — may not be enough to lure genre fans into theaters. Expect a quick U-turn back to the vid stores.
Plot basically is lifted from the 1991 Jean-Claude Van Damme starrer “Double Impact.” Black-and-white prologue set in 1965 establishes the gimmicky setup, as a fugitive convict takes one of two twin male infants as hostage while escaping a Hong Kong hospital. Bad guy quickly is recaptured, but not before he dumps the baby into a wooded area where he’s providentially found by a boozy floozy. She raises the foundling as her own, while the child’s real parents move to U.S. with the other twin.
Fast-forward three decades — well, OK, 27 years — and John Ma, the twin who made it to America, is a world-famous concert pianist and orchestra conductor. Back in Hong Kong, Boomer, the other brother, is a garage mechanic with a penchant for racing and a talent for butt-kicking. Blissfully unaware that he even has a sibling, Boomer treasures his close friendship with Tyson (Teddy Robin), a short, smart-mouthed fellow who is more trouble than he’s worth.
Tyson involves Boomer in an ill-conceived plan to “rescue” a pretty singer, Barbara (Maggie Cheung), from a nightclub frequented by underworld types. One thing leads to another, Tyson winds up in a hospital controlled by the gangsters and Boomer is ordered to be ready for action as a getaway driver. If Boomer fails to respond when he gets a summons from the gangsters, Tyson will take a one-way gurney to the morgue.
Naturally, John Ma arrives in Hong Kong for a concert date just when Boomer is caught on the horns of a dilemma. Just as naturally, the two look-alike brothers are repeatedly mistaken for each other, leading to romantic entanglements as well as slapsticky action. While John Ma is pleasantly surprised to be pursued by Barbara (who thinks he is Boomer), Boomer enjoys a lusty romp with Tammy (Nina Li Chi), a spoiled rich girl who is overwhelmed by the sudden sexiness of the usually reserved John Ma.
Other complications arise because both twins are able to sense each other’s movements and reactions. For example, while Boomer races in a speedboat, John Ma rocks uncontrollably in his restaurant seat. The psychic bonding comes in handy on several occasions, most notably in pic’s most inspired sequence. As Boomer frantically fakes his way through conducting an orchestra, his movements echo those of his twin — who’s listening to the concert on a car radio while driving a newly escaped gangster away from pursuing police cars.
Lam and Hark play just about every scene for fast and frenetic laughs, even when people are shooting at each other. (Production notes state that the directors worked separately, with Lam focusing mainly on the John Ma character and Hark handling the Boomer scenes.) The fight scenes are impressively acrobatic, but “Twin Dragons” works best when the ever-charismatic Chan gets a chance to cut loose with some nimble physical comedy.
Of particular note is a hilarious scene that has both twins trying to fool Barbara into thinking she really isn’t seeing double.
Chan fans, it should be noted, may be shocked to see their clean-cut, image-conscious idol smoking cigarettes so frequently as Boomer.
English dubbing isn’t half-bad. Unfortunately, the camera trickery is glaringly cheesy in some shots, greatly undercutting the illusion of twin brothers in the same frame. When the two brothers first meet in a hotel lavatory, it’s easy to see how two shots have been overlapped. It’s even easier to see that, when they’re supposed to be looking at each other, they don’t quite make eye contact.
Die-hard Hong Kong action-movie buffs, take note: Lam and Hark appear onscreen in bit parts, as do such other notables as John Woo (as the priest in a wedding scene) and Kirk Wong (as a tough customer known as Crazy Kung). According to the production notes, “Seung Lung Wui” was produced as a fundraising project for the Directors Guild of Hong Kong. Current edition has been cut by 11 minutes, as original Hong Kong version ran 100.