An English language, Chinese film production this is a bizarre little movie indeed, which is going to be a hard one to explain, but I’ll try!
Apparently set in the 1930s, a dashing Los Angeles based assassin, known simply as ‘Scholar’ – probably because of his classical education and his love of Shakespeare – (along with three other underground hit persons), is hired by a Chinese family to eradicate one of the family’s twin sisters because she allegedly killed their parents for their wealth and power. The assassins are given the choice of working together or going it alone – they choose the latter in order to reap higher rewards for themselves. One of the conditions of the hit is that there can be no witnesses and there should be no collateral damage either. This means choosing the time and place to perform the hit is difficult.
Scholar finds himself falling for the target, leading to some interesting flirting/ courtship (including a truly bizarre sequence on a climbing wall) and ends up protecting her from the other assassins with some interesting outcomes.
If this all sounds like typical action/martial arts movie fare it is; well, at least on paper! However, the makers have decided to semi-spoof the genre (or at least I think they have) and seem to have done it ‘in the style of The Avengers’ and I don’t mean the half decent TV series! The way the film is put together is a little odd to say the least with some quirky shot choices (I’m being kind there) and some totally unnecessary speeded up fight footage, which ruins most of the fights in the movie. And this essentially being a martial arts/action movie kind of means that most of the reasons for watching the film have been buggered up!
The film starts off quite well with some semi-entertaining assassin introductory scenes, the highlight of which is a sequence in a reading library, which is actually quite well put together and is a lot of fun. In fact it’s one of the best introductions to a major character I’ve seen in a film for a long time. But, alas, things start to go rapidly downhill after that with the introduction of an assassin who is also a magician/mime (and who can do neither of these well), plus a token female assassin – who’s just not convincing – and a black dude who looks like he should be in some blaxploitation film instead!
Slapstick humour is deployed at unsuitable moments and the actors are often doubled by people who don’t really look like them! And while on the subject of acting, with few exceptions, the level of acting here is worse than your average school play. On a plus note the film obviously had a budget, as the sets and costumes are good and some of the photography is pretty decent.
The film is also plagued by audio problems, particularly in scenes involving long shots in larger rooms, where suddenly you can hardly hear what people are saying – I suspect they forgot to redub that dialogue in post-production. There are also some really stupid moments involving costume changing at inopportune moments (especially during an assassin attack scene after a Chinese opera rehersal) and fight ‘gags’ that don’t really work.
I’m really not sure who this film is aimed at since the style is more targeted at children, but the levels of violence, with people getting crushed and their throats being slashed, is obviously too much for the pre-teen age range. It’s also way too talky to suit teenage boys who would probably be up for seeing it, as too much time is allocated to the frankly not particularly interesting love story between Scholar and Kay, the assassin’s mark.
Plot-wise, the film is thin on the ground, although it does partially redeem itself towards the end with a fun twist, which had me laughing at its sheer audacity. Although this payoff is then ruined by a ham-fisted attempt to tie up all the loose ends at the film’s final stage, which just had me cringing and wanting to stick pins in my eyes/ears!
I can only really recommend this film if you enjoy seeing fairly naff movies for a laugh, accompanied by copious amounts of beer and pizza to numb the cerebral pain!
Reviewer: Justin Richards
2020 Films released Twin Daggers on DVD on 8 August so expect to see it languishing on the shelf of your local Blockbuster or ASDA soon. No extras were on the review disc.