The Twin Dragons [雙龍會] (1992)
AKA Brother vs. Brother, Double Dragon, Duel of Dragons, When Dragons Collide, Dragon Duo, When Dragons Meet
Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Nina Li Chi, Teddy Robin Kwan, Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting, Wang Lung-Wei, Jamie Luk Kim-Ming, David Chiang, Lau Kar-Leung, Wong Jing, Chor Yuen, Guy Lai Ying-Chau
Directed by Tsui Hark & Ringo Lam
I first saw The Twin Dragons as a teenager. It never really captured my attention; I think I only watched it once or twice. There were other, better Jackie films to watch over and over. Roughly 20 years later, I didn’t remember anything about it. I was able to experience the film with completely fresh eyes because of this, and I loved it. What really helped this time, too, is that now I have a more expansive knowledge of Hong Kong film, so I actually noticed that there were a TON of cameos from luminaries of the Hong Kong film industry. I’m sure I recognized Lau Kar-Leung back in the day, but now I noted the subtext of the scene in which his confident, classic style confronts the lunacy of Wong Jing. Recognizing these moments makes the film play much better and much funnier than I ever remember it being, to the point that the lack of action doesn’t even matter… especially when the film then caps itself off with such an incredible explosion of action!
Twin boys are born in a Hong Kong hospital to a Chinese couple visiting from the US. In a wonderful series of crazy Hong Kong action moments, a criminal takes one of the twins hostage and the infant finds its way into the hands of a childless, alcoholic woman who raises it as her own. Meanwhile, when the missing child was never found, the couple returned to New York and raised the other twin as an only child. The Hong Kong twin is named Die Hard (in my copy’s subtitles), and he a martial artist who works as a shady mechanic who likes to take his customers’ cars out to race with. The twin in New York, Ma Yau, is raised with a thorough education and becomes a world-class pianist and conductor. Ma Yau has recently arrived for a performance in Hong Kong, leading to mistaken identity hijinks and hilarity.
The story goes that Jackie Chan hired Tsui Hark for this film because he thought that Tsui would be able to pull together convincing FX work to make the twin Jackie thing work. If you were to ask me, Tsui did an outstanding job. There are a couple of moments where the seams show, but overall the effect is really well done. I mean, there’s a scene where the two Jackies face each other and one of them pokes the other in the nose. It’s completely flawless! How did they do that? It’s nuts. But if you were to ask Jackie, apparently he would disagree and say that the FX work was so bad it made him swear off special effects films until the day that he returned to Hollywood. Perhaps the climate on set influenced his opinion or something, because honestly the FX work looked really well done and convincing to me.
In my review of Armour of God II, I theorized that following that film Jackie, having accomplished so much as a director, might have decided to challenge himself and see where other directors would take him. If this was the case (and ignoring Island of Fire), then The Twin Dragons is a fantastic movie to branch out with. The characters that Jackie plays are both different than the standard Jackie role, and the movie itself has a very different feel to anything Jackie had made previously. It is primarily a comedy, but also one that involves and celebrates the Hong Kong film industry (by way of all the cameos). Seriously, between the cameos and all the people behind the scenes, it’s almost like half the industry was in some way involved in this movie. Jackie offers something of an explanation for this in his memoir, noting that the film was made as a benefit for the Hong Kong Director’s Guild, with the profits going to build their new headquarters building.
The film has a pair of legitimate Jackie fights, basically book-ending the film. The first fight takes place in a karaoke bar, and sets many of the film’s events into motion. It also showcases Jackie’s wonderful ability to fight with the environment. Things like the microphone, the speakers, and even something as shapeless as sound itself are used to great effect. It’s not a particularly great fight, but it’s fun. The finale in the Mitsubishi automobile testing lab, though, is truly exceptional. I’d say that Sammo or Jackie could have shot and edited it together better, but regardless it remains a fight worthy of multiple re-watches. Again, the environment’s role in the fight is paramount; it influences nearly every moment of the battle. The choreography is inventive and fun, with many moments perfectly designed to draw out gasps and hushed utterances of “Oh shit!”
If you haven’t seen many Jackie films, I don’t think The Twin Dragons is a great place to start. But for the seasoned fan looking to branch out, it will fit the bill nicely. Being able to recognize the cameos will help your enjoyment of the film considerably, so if you don’t like it the first time maybe revisit it after watching more Hong Kong films? In any case, I greatly enjoyed my time with The Twin Dragons. Just make sure you watch the Hong Kong version, as the US cut is like 10–15 minutes shorter and it loses a lot of funny material.
Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan is the one and only Police Story III: Supercop! The 2nd Jackie Chan film I ever saw (thanks to its US release), and one of my favorites! See ya then!