Twin Warriors
(Tai ji zhang san feng) (1993)
Directed by Woo-ping Yuen

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * *

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From the time they were boys living at the Shaolin Monastery, Junbao (Jet Li) and Chin Bo (Siu-hou Chin) have been best friends. After they are expelled as adults, however, the latter joins the army serving a corrupt provincial governor while the former becomes involved with the rebels fighting against that man. Before long, Chin Bo's immoral ambition leads him to betray Junbao and the rebels he is helping, including the deadly Siu Lin (Michelle Yeoh).

Woo-ping Yuen's Twin Warriors is a loosely structured, often exciting, intermittently ridiculous, and consistently frenetic martial arts film.

While I cannot say that the story the director tells is likely to impress the viewer, the fight sequences with which this tale is punctuated are always well done and enjoyable. Yuen usually presents the viewer with depictions of impossible, magical battles, in which opponents leap through the air, display superhuman strength or endurance, manipulate the forces of nature, or perform other astonishing feats. Happily, these fantastic details suffuse the director's depictions of various violent struggles with a potent legendary quality that makes them thrilling to watch. What is more, the movie is so filled with such fights that the excitement one such scene is able to arouse in the viewer will barely have waned in the interval between that scene and the next.

These action sequences are not, however, the only pleasing elements in the film. Its generally high production values are also captivating. The director may not accurately recreate any particular past time, but his lavish costumes and well made sets do draw the moviegoer out of his ordinary life and enable him to immerse himself in a vision of some mythic China. The beauty of this fictional world, consequently, contributes to the movie's capacity to involve the viewer in the events and adventures it depicts.

Sadly, the film does have a number of weaknesses which do detract from its appeal. Although the innumerable fights presented in Twin Warriors are truly fun, the dreadful attempts at comedy with which many of the scenes between such sequences are filled are annoying. Even when they do not irritate the viewer, however, these routines are still not likely to amuse him.

Some of Twin Warriors' other faults, however, unlike these efforts at comedy, are actually entertaining. For example, the movie's villain, a sneering, cruel, white haired official who ruthlessly exploits those under him, is so wildly overdone that he is a joy to watch, and the exaggerated acting with which he and the film's other characters are brought to life somehow manages to give them a quirky charm. While such flaws do not add to the movie's virtues, they do make it enjoyable.

I will not claim that Twin Warriors is a work of art, but it is a genuinely exciting, even thrilling action film that is well worth seeing.

Review by Keith Allen

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