The Twins Effect (Chin Gei Bin/Vampire Effect) (2003)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Making Of The Twins Effect (16:15)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-(55:28)
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (83:42)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Universal Pictures Home Video
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
|RPI||$34.95||Music||Kwong Wing Chan|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Twins Effect is basically a nonsensical, silly piece of martial arts filmmaking that is purely a vehicle for the standout Hong Kong pop duo known as Twins.
That pretty much tells you all you need to know about the film. Well, it should but it does not really, for whilst this is one of the silliest films you are ever likely to see, with a basic story that is not so much a story but a bunch of interconnected vignettes, it remains a largely enjoyable film despite all of its obvious flaws. Part of the reason for that is that the Twins are actually Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, who happen to be rather attractive women (a bit of an understatement there methinks), who actually give a fair fist of this, their third film together, that certainly means that it does not fall into the stinker category. It may not be in the classic category either, but the producers were never after classic cinema here, they were simply after something entertaining and thus hopefully profitable. To aid that aim, they included cameos from Jackie Chan, Karen Mok and Josie Ho for good measure. Not a bad idea actually.
The only problem is that the execution of that idea could have been better...
The broad story here - and belief me this is very broad - centres around Reeve (Ekin Cheng), a very successful vampire hunter with the Anti-Vampire League. The story begins in a railway station (which I really would like to know where it is as I am buggered if I can recall the name of it, even though it looks so familiar) where Reeve and his current partner Lila (Josie Ho) are about to greet the train from hell. Reeve has a soft spot for Lila but when the evening activities end in a bad way, vows to never fall in love with a partner again. So when his new partner arrives in the form of Gypsy (Gillian Chung), you can pretty well guess that she is one fine looking woman. She also happens to be rather ambivalent about the vampire hunting thing, which might have consequences for Reeve on another front, whilst also idolising Reeve. Meantime, Reeve's sister Helen (Charlene Choi), who supposedly is unaware of her brother's "job", is having relationship problems again but whilst breaking up with an old boyfriend happens to meet Kazaf (Edison Chen), who rather takes a fancy to her. They start up a relationship, which is obviously going to face some issues as Kazaf happens to be a Prince Of Darkness - yep, you got it, a vampire, and royalty at that. But he is a nice vampire and will not suck human blood, preferring instead to take it from the bottle. This at times frustrates his equerry Prada (Anthony Wong) no end.
As we move towards the seemingly inevitable clash of vampire and non-vampire in this strange love quadrangle, there is a dastardly sub-plot to negotiate - namely that Duke Dekotes (Mickey Hardt) is out to kill the royal vampire family and gain the necessary keys to unlock the book Day And Night, which by legend would give a vampire the power to operate both day and night. The keys are to be found in the bodies of the five Princes of Darkness, and so far he has managed to kill four of them to obtain their keys. The last of course is Kazaf and so this very European vampire and his cohorts are in Hong Kong to feast upon some Eastern blood and to kill Kazaf.
It really is as daft as it sounds but the whole thing strangely enough seems to work despite this. Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung are hardly the greatest actors you will ever see, but they do a pretty fair job and certainly look d*** fine - which ensures that there is rarely a moment of celluloid that does not have a very high eye candy rating. Whilst the character of Helen is a tad annoying, that of Gypsy is anything but and in the end both elicit sympathy towards them. When they are not onscreen, things dip a bit but the opening is very nice to watch, simply for the presence of Josie Ho - she can come and whip my butt anytime she wants! A regrettably too short appearance in this film just whets the appetite to check out other Josie Ho films. For the ladies there is of course Edison Chen to light up the screen. With the cameo vignettes thrown in to keep the general level of interest up, even if they do sod all to further the already weak script, the whole film does seem to lurch along from one action sequence to another with relative abandon. I cannot honestly say that either of the directors does an exceptional job here, but since the whole point of the film is as much of Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung as possible, then they did not exactly start on a level playing field anyway.
If you are after genuinely exhilarating martial arts action, then this is definitely not where you would be looking. If you were looking for some classic Eastern film making, then this is definitely not where you would be looking. If you are into one hundred minutes of mindless fluff with high eye candy value to just plain enjoy, this is definitely where you would be looking. As long as you approach the film with the right sort of expectation, then you should find it tremendously entertaining.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which is in accordance with the original theatrical ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.
Given that this is a very recent film, we would have expectations of a very good transfer. Well that might have been the case if this were a Hollywood film with a significant budget. Unfortunately, it is a Hong Kong film and the budget was not that huge. This seems to permeate everything about the film, inasmuch as there is nothing really wrong with it but everything just seems to fall short of what we might reasonably expect for a recent film. So whilst this is a reasonably sharp transfer, it never really is sharp - and at times falls well short of that, as the screen capture of the paused image at 1:10 indicates.
As you can well...see, this is a very diffuse mess. Okay, this is about as bad as it gets, but it does illustrate that there are some inherent problems here. Whilst detail is again generally quite good, obviously it is not as good as we would normally expect. Shadow detail is little better than average at times, but at its best is quite adequate enough. There is nothing really bothersome in the way of grain, which is a plus.
The colours tend to be quite well handled, if a little dark and lacking contrast at times. Overall it has quite a vibrant look to it, and it is quite natural looking. There are occasions when the colours seem to be a little more muted, but I would hazard a guess that this is partly an artistic choice. Oversaturation is not that much of an issue, although there were odd instances of reds not being that well handled. There is nothing obvious in the way of colour bleed.
There are no significant issues with MPEG artefacting in the transfer, although some minor blockiness and image resolution issues are to be noted here and there. These are possibly connected with the effects work and thus are probably inherent in the source material. There is nothing much in the way of film-to-video artefacting in the transfer, with just some modest aliasing being noted on occasions. Given the preponderance of sharp, steely edges in the film the problem is probably less than what would normally be expected. Examples can be seen in the pergola at 38:38 and the wall at 43:50. There are some obvious film artefacts floating around the transfer, most obviously a rather large dirt mark at 48:12 that you would be hard-pressed to miss. This is a little disappointing as it suggests that there was some lack of care in sourcing the print to make the master here. For a film of this recent origin, this is not the sort of film artefact I would be expecting at all.
This is a dual layer, single sided DVD with the layer change coming at 83:42. It is just a little noticeable, as the picture pauses slightly during movement and then resumes.
There is just the sole subtitle option on the DVD, being an English effort. Since my Cantonese is restricted to being able to swear pretty well, I accordingly cannot attest to the accuracy of the subtitles. All as I can say is that they seem to do the job and convey the tone of the film well enough.
There are two soundtracks on the DVD, both of them Cantonese. There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. In this instance, I listened to the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack in its entirety and only sampled the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The reason for this is a relatively simple one - the sample of the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was simply too aggressive for my taste and I was simply unable to listen to more than the sample. If you like aggressive six channel soundtracks, you are going to love this one.
Dialogue comes up well in the transfers and is usually easy to understand. There did not seem to be any issues with audio sync issues in the transfer.
The original music comes from Chan Kwong Wing. I can't say that it did a whole lot for me, being rather derivative - which would make it pretty much on a par with many a Hong Kong film. After all, the budgets are not huge and money simply would not be available for any really impressive original score. And truth be told - why bother? It is arguably the least important part of any Hong Kong film in my view.
The six channel soundtrack really is one of the most aggressive efforts I have ever heard, but equally not the most subtle effort I have ever heard. The aggressiveness comes from over-emphasis of the bass channel, to the extent that even seemingly innocuous music has a rampaging bass resonance that is not really very natural. Surround channel usage is decent enough but the rears lack a little whilst the fronts are over-emphasised. I certainly would not call it an enveloping soundtrack - more like an assault. Not to my taste at all, but then again I have a well known aversion to excess bass in soundtracks.
The two channel soundtrack is a comparatively wimpish effort in comparison, but does not give me the headache that the six channel effort does. It is quite a clear effort, lacking somewhat in detail but thankfully lacking congestion too. There is nothing really wrong with it, and it does offer some surround presence (even though it is not apparently surround encoded).
|Surround Channel Use|
Not the most exhilarating package you will ever find, but certainly a decent enough one.
Quite flashy, with audio and animation enhancement across most menus. There is a short introduction to the main menu, which plays after the unavoidable 87 second long FACT piracy advert.
Featurette - Behind The Scenes (16:15)
Decent enough, albeit very much in the EPK style. Featuring interviews with the main cast and the co-director mainly, with clips from the film and some modicum of behind the scenes stuff that concentrates pretty much on the stunts and the training of the Twins. Enjoyable enough and of decent enough quality too, apart from a tendency to some aliasing. The presentation is in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced, features a decent Cantonese/English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and has selectable English subtitles.
Interviews - Cast and Crew (55:28)
With contributions from Jackie Chan (14:39), Josie Ho (4:58), Gillian Chung (5:14), Edison Chen (6:36), Charlene Choi (11:17) and Donnie Yen (12:44), there are two things you might notice: one is that a fair chunk of the stuff is also included in the featurette and the other is that they give a fair bit of the film away. Accordingly, you don't want to watch these before watching the film and it might be an idea to watch these before you watch the featurette. The interviews are presented in a Full Frame format, which is naturally enough not 16x9 enhanced and with a Cantonese/English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Aside from being a little on the dark side, which robs the picture of some detail, there is nothing much wrong with the transfer technically speaking.
Theatrical Trailers (2)
Basically offering variations upon the same theme, they run for 2:06 and 1:54 respectively. The uniform presentation is an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 that is not 16x9 enhanced and with what sounds like a Mandarin dubbed Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I am not certain on the latter point but they don't sound Cantonese to me. There are forced English and Chinese subtitles. They are not the best I have ever seen, but not exactly the worst either.
Teaser Trailers (2)
An International version running 1:22 and an Asian version running 1:05, being very similar in content and presentation. The transfers are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced and with English Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The latter are notional only as there is no dialogue in the teasers at all, just music and sound effects.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Okay, this is where things get interesting. According to the Internet Movie Database, there are three versions of the film in existence: an 88 minute version, a 102 minute version and a 107 minute version. Assuming that the Hong Kong version of 107 minutes is the definitive version, then that would equate to a PAL running time of 102 minutes - so I am going to presume that the 102 minute and 107 minute versions are the same, accounting for the 4% PAL speedup, and there really are only two versions of the film out there. So, the Region 1 release, which clocks in at 88 minutes, is obviously a cut version - but I have no idea of what has been cut.
Ignoring the fact that the film has been cut, the Region 1 release offers an English Dolby Digital 5.1 dubbed soundtrack for those heathens that cannot stand the original language with subtitles, but would rather watch an entire film with the audio out of sync. The Region 1 release only offers up five trailers as an extras package: The Medallion, Underworld, Returner, Tokyo Godfathers and Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters. All in all I would say the Region 1 release is a poor substitute for the additional extras and the full uncut feature length on the Region 4 release, but for those that absolutely have to have an English dubbed soundtrack...
Region 2 (at least the UK portion thereof) offers up what appears to be the same DVD as we have here in Region 4 - not unsurprising since the Region 4 version is dual coded for Region 2 too.
Region 3 (Hong Kong) offers up a rather different package - and note that it is apparently a Region 0 DVD so would be right at home in your Region 4 player. First up it is a two disc set, but don't let that suggest anything as all they have done is plonk some of the basic extras package that the Region 4 DVD has onto the second disc. What this does mean is that they have been able to give the film not only a Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack but also a Cantonese dts 5.1 soundtrack. They might have lost the Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack of the Region 4 release, but that got replaced with a Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 dubbed soundtrack. With respect of the extras themselves, it has the Making Of featurette that the Region 4 has (albeit with no subtitles), along with the two theatrical trailers and one of the teaser trailers (presumably the Asian version) although again with no subtitles. The trailers for other films are of course very different: Heroic Duo, Truth Or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat, My Dream Girl, Just One Look, My Wife Is 18 and Women From Mars. Rounding out the package is a photo gallery and cast and crew filmographies/biographies in English and Chinese, along with a cardboard slip cover for the Amaray case itself. The feature has English subtitles (supposedly quite excellent too) along with Chinese in both traditional and simplified versions. Given that the transfer quality is supposedly very good, the presence of the dts soundtrack makes this a very powerful competitor to the Region 4 release - and that is before you know the DVD is available from CD-WOW! for HKD66 at the moment (that equates to around AUD12!). Even better, you can get it as part of a 4 disc package including The Twins Effect II for HKD190 (about AUD33). I'll give you the tip - my Region 3 version is on its way from Hong Kong right now!
Region 2 (Japan) offers up a package somewhat similar to the Region 3 (Hong Kong) effort, dropping the Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 dubbed soundtrack in favour of a Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 dubbed soundtrack. The extras comprise a Making Of featurette, cast interviews, a promo video for the main theme song (sung by the way by Twins and Jackie Chan), trailers and an interview with Twins. It naturally comes at the usual small-mortgage price point that most Japanese DVDs carry (I never will understand how anyone affords DVDs in Japan). Other than the details, I know little about the DVD, but unless you desperately need a Japanese dub I cannot imagine it offers much inducement above the Region 3 (Hong Kong) release, especially at the pricing point.
I have to say that from what I had heard about the film, I was not expecting much from The Twins Effect at all - and was probably quite determined to not enjoy it. Whilst it is by no means great cinema, with a story that jumps all over the place seemingly with little coherence whatsoever and odd pastiches of scenes included in some sort of random manner, there is something curiously enjoyable about the film. I am guessing that has a whole lot to do with the whole point of the film - the Twins, otherwise known as Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, who whilst by no means great actors are certainly high up there in the eye candy stakes. Even by Hong Kong standards, some of the fight choreography became really unbelievable, and some of the effects work was not on a par with what we would get from a vastly more expensive American film, but even this did not seem to detract a whole heap from the film. I have seen words like goofy, nonsensical, silly, daft and bizarre applied to the film and would not disagree with any of them. But for all its obvious faults, the film is simply enjoyable fluff. Sometimes you just need to kick back, drag out that huge tub of popcorn and just enjoy life - this is certainly a film for those sorts of moments.
|DVD||Denon DVD-1600, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|