Twin Dragons

Jackie Chan's 1992 Hong Kong film -- made as a benefit for the Hong Kong Directors' Guild -- was obviously picked up for American distribution seven years later in hopes of cashing in on his current mini-boom. I yield to no one in my love of Chan's best work, and even his mediocre films deserve to be seen and appreciated, for three reasons: First, his astounding feats of acrobatics and martial arts; second, the charming wit behind everything he does; and third, the glorious choreography with which he stages his stunts.

His style as director and protagonist is for his character in each film to play the sweet, unpretentious man who just happens to have extraordinary powers. He's the closest thing to early Christopher Reeves as Superman that we have with us today. When he directs himself he makes sure to set up his stunts so that we in the audience see and get everything that's going on. There's no rushing, no crowding of action, no confusion, so that as fast as he is we still stay right with him.

Unfortunately that didn't happen in "Twin Dragons." The story gives us two Jackies, identical twins separated at birth and meeting accidentally thirty-odd years later, when one twin is a world-famous conductor and the other is -- confusingly -- either a race-car driver or a hood, or both. The simple plot is weighted down with many too many extraneous scenes, characters, and details, that keep stopping the film dead in its tracks. There's obviously a lot that can be done with a character playing twins, dating back to silent days, with mistaken identities, girlfriends put in embarrassing positions, and bad guys chasing the wrong twin; but here the mistakes become repetitious and exhausting.

One problem is that the film wasn't directed by Chan, but by other Hong Kong directors who evidently wanted to make their mark as well, and so stylistically the film is all over the place, with John Woo-type shots alternating with dreary stagings. (Interestingly, the girlfriend is played here by Maggie Cheung, who later became Chan's film partner in martial arts and acrobatics.)

The film is dubbed, badly, into English. It would have been much better all around if it had simply been subtitled, though middle America might protest. And -- unlike Chan's other films -- there's no post-end-credits rolling of the outtakes. A big mistake.