Try to imagine the Olsen twins appearing in a Blade knock-off. In the words of Dawn Of The Dead's Ken Foree, "Scary, isn't it". Well, that's what we have effectively here, only made for the Hong Kong/Chinese market.

Vampires exist, but don't have everything their own way, though, thanks to an worldwide network of Buffyesque slayers.

As the film starts - about three lines of dialogue followed by an extended fight sequence - news has just reached the Hong Kong slayers local that European bloodsucker Dekotes and his Lost Boys rejects are in town.

The encounter goes badly for the humans, with she-slayer Lila (Josie Ho) falling in battle before Dekotes escapes more or less unscathed. Lila's partner Reeve (Ekin Cheng) solemnly sends his failure report and awaits the arrival of the replacement vampire killer, Gipsy (Gillian Chung).

Meanwhile - and ever so conveniently - his younger sister Helen (Charlene Choi) happens to attract the attention of another vampire, the new agey, pacificistic Prince Kazaf (Edison Chen) who is travelling incognito.

And, wouldn't you just know it, Kazaf is also the one Dekotes is seeking, because he alone holds the key to unlocking the legendary book of Day for Night and its secrets (which, before you ask, have nothing to do with cinematography or Francois Truffaut's 1973 film of the same name)...

Though marketed in English-speaking territories as being from the action director of Blade II, Donnie Yen, and for featuring an extended cameo from Jackie Chan, the raison d'etre of The Twins Effect AKA The Vampire Effect is really to showcase the talents of Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi before their inevitable sell-by date passes (Spice Girls, where are you now?).

In terms of action, they do about as well as can be expected. Like Yuen Woo Ping, Yen could probably make the likes of Jack Black - or Eric Tsang - appear a model of grace and poise, with a heavy emphasis on wire work and other technical trickery concealing the most obvious shortcomings of the duo and their pretty boy counterparts, Ekin Cheng and Edison Chen.

Nonetheless, a few moments of getting past his prime Chan frantically trying to keep pace with a speeding ambulance and shimmying up a convenient pole provide a timely reminder of just what is being lost with the paradigm shift from Peking Opera to Cantopop: That whole devil-may-care, can't-fake-this approach, broken bones and all.

It's more as a lighthearted comedy, then, that the film scores its best moments. Again, however, the honours do not go to the starlets but the ever-reliable Anthony Wong as Kazaf's loyal, tradition minded retainer Prada (one wonders what happened to his counterparts Versace and Gucci) with a fine self-deprecating performance. But something also seems lacking here. The moment when, following another extended fight sequence, Reeve can't find the antidote to the vampire blood the hunters gulp down to gain the same speed and strength as the vampires and so starts to transform into one himself confirms it: It's a sense of specifically Chinese tradition, of hopping corpses and sticky rice as antidote. Never mind the wonderful Mr Vampire, the fun but cheesy Hammer-Shaw Bros crossover Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires begins to feel almost authentic by comparison.

Schizoid, slick and above all disposable though it may be - cue ironicised racist joke about half an hour later feeling like another one - The Twins Effect is also, curiously, fun, thanks to its lack of pretense and refusal to take itself too seriously. Besides, it's surely preferable that domestic and diasporan audiences see this rather than some piece of Hollywood hegemonic propaganda, no?

Reviewed on: 22 Oct 2004
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Messy martial arts/vampire/ comedy/popstar concoction.
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Director: Dante Lam, Donnie Yen

Writer: Jack Ng

Starring: Ekin Cheng, Charlene Choi, Gillian Chung, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Edison Chen, Jackie Chan, Mickey Hardt, Josie Ho

Year: 2003

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Hong Kong

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If you like this, try:

Blade II
The Lost Boys