The Huadu Chronicles: The Blade of the Rose (2004) / Action-Fantasy
aka Twins Effect 2 (or Twins Effect II)
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably R for violence, mild language and sexuality
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Charlene Choi, Gillian Chung, Jaycee Chan, Ying Qu, Donnie Yen, Daniel Wu, Edison Chen, Tony Leung, Jackie Chan, Fan Bing Bing
Director: Patrick Leung, Corey Yuen
Review published August 19, 2004
The first Twins Effect was a number one grossing film in Hong Kong in 2003, so a follow-up proved to be an easy decision. Interestingly, while most of the cast is brought back for round two, the producers did not decide to make this sequel a continuation of the first film at all. In fact, there's little other than the style of Twins Effect 2 (known as The Huadu Chronicles in places outside of Hong Kong) to correlate the two. Its story is completely self-contained, and the goods are delivered mightily for those interested in seeing superb special effects and action, as this rivals the first film tenfold in terms of visual and aural magnificence. Despite all of the grandiosity in the sound and fury department, TE2 falls short in entertainment, with feeble attempts at humor and a complete lack of focus that sees the CGI component ratcheted up the the nth degree, presumably in the hopes that audiences won't realize that there just isn't anything of interest here otherwise.
In a place called Huadu, in a fictional past where an empress (Qu Ying) has decreed that women are the masters and men the slaves, prophecy has foretold of a male who would become king and bring men forward to prominence again. That man may or may not be either Char (Chan) or Leaf (Bo-lin), part of a troupe of traveling players who come across a sacred stone that contains an ancient map. A couple of females, Blue (Chung) and Spring (Choi), join the men in their quest, while other forces are at work to see that the prophecy doesn't come true.
Twins 2 marks the debut of Jaycee Chan, son of international martial arts superstar, Jackie Chan, and while the resemblance is there, the physical talent is not, and neither is the comedic ability. Not that you'd really notice anyway, as the film isn't really blessed with noteworthy performances, most of the played in cutesy fashion or way over the top, which is what you'd expect with a plot this farfetched and action this unbelievable.
The budget is impressive, with lavish sets, costumes, and special effects -- it's a real treat for the eyes. It really is a gorgeous looking movie, and with a cast of talented supporting actors in Donnie Yen (Iron Monkey, Hero) and Jackie Chan (Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon), the stage was set to take the modest pleasure that was the first Twins Effect up to the next level and become an international phenomenon. However, it is not to be. TE2 is a muddled and poorly executed bore. The comedy falls flat, the storyline is nonsense, and the fighting is full of obvious CGI. The battle choreography is the one breathtaking aspect, and if there could have been a little more realism, perhaps I would be more forgiving of the significant flaws. There isn't, so even the one thing that could have impressed me the most is muted, leaving only the eye candy to hold my attention -- just barely.
You need to have an extremely low threshold for entertainment to enjoy Twins Effect 2, and suffice it to say, the amount of people who will be blown away by the visual elements here probably rank in the millions around the world. I don't count myself among them. This is an often silly and largely distasteful outing that took what was cute and fun from the first film dumped it in the middle of a much darker and less enjoyable political fantasy. I guess that's what you'd expect from a kung fu "epic" starring bubble gum pop stars.
©2004 Vince Leo