Thursday, June 14, 2012

Double Trouble (宝岛双雄 / Bao Dao Shuang Xiong)

Being Human

I'm quite sure Double Trouble is one of many Pan-Chinese films out there which try to play on the China-Taiwan subtext through its main characters, and one of many attempts to try and get the buddy cop action comedy genre right with one character from China and the other from Taiwan teaming up against trecherous Non Resident, English speaking Chinese characters who will not bat an eyelid at looting from China. Fan that national fervour please, except that this film actually had Jaycee Chan trying to emulate what his famous father Jackie Chan had been doing during his heydays, minus the latter's gung-ho, no stuntman spirit and plenty of fisticuffs and acrobatics to please fans worldwide. Directed by David Chang Hsun-Wei, Double Trouble has limited moments of fun, but ultimately a choppy pacing, and throwaway characters populating the flimsy storyline did it in.

Jaycee Chan plays Taiwanese museum security officer Jay, one of a team of elite guards tasked to protect the museum's famed painting exhibit due to be unveiled for the world to see. We learn he's a maverick and non team player, preferring to spring into rash action without thinking much of the consequence. And in a typical Jackie Chan Rush Hour storyline, Jay's foil happen to be a Chinese security guard from Beijing, Ocean (Xia Yu, whom I last saw in Electric Shadows), on tour in Taiwan only for him to botch Jay's pursuit of two female femme fatales in their escape with the said painting. Mind you this is no Mission: Impossible, so the heist was pretty much a walk in the park, literally, with actual combat being few and far between, only for the models of Shoko and Jessica Cambensy (or better known as Jessica C) to flaunt their long tresses as they kick choreographed butts.

With the villains playing cat and mouse with our unlikely duo Jay and Ocean, who have to team up just because they need to pursue the latter's tour bus since the painting got expectedly onto someone's bag, what develops is a rather formula chase-bicker-fight routine, with the showcase of one of the major action sequence being atop a moving bus. With so many action films being done to death with various hard hitting routines, this one dwelled in more PG environment, with massively obvious CG moments compensating for the lack of funds for a proper, gutsy stunt team to take over. With so many Chinese films these days reliant on CG in the hopes to spruce their film with some make belief production values, more often than not this backfires quite badly, almost akin to taking the audience as fools for not being able to notice these attempts, which turn out to be midly irritating. Vivian Dawson as the main villain for the finale also got dispatched in too easy a fashion for all the posing bad-assery on display, in a big fight that again got plagued with some continuity errors.

But for effort, then Double Trouble does have a premise on paper that looked almost like the equivalent of a Rush Hour for this part of the world, with an impulsive young chap partnered with a talkative cultural bumpkin of sorts who likes to exaggerate his fighting prowess, both on the good side of the law being thrown by circumstances to work together on a mission, and from there developing strong camaraderie. In actual fact, both Jaycee and Xia Yu possess that amount of chemistry to power the film, and in truth their scenes together are what holds the film together, since villains are largely absent for the most parts, with the female femme fatales reduced to modelling and showing off their bustlines. And don't forget the support from the Taiwanese contingent, who lend the likes of Chen Han Dian and Chang Fei playing comic characters such as a tour guide called Idol (a pun on his character's name and profession), and the latter a rather failed gangster who can't seem to have a competent crew amongst his ranks. Their jokes come fast and furious, and the best repartee of course comes from their rapid fire Taiwanese language complete with devil may care insults hurled both directions, which somehow become music to the ears. Chinese actress Deng Jiajia rounds up the ensemble as the token female love interest.

So did Jaycee show potential to step into his father's giant action-comic shoe? Yes to a certain extent, with the help of wires, plenty of rough around the edges CG, and stand ins to provide the necessary camouflage, though he earns some credit for performing some stunts himself, as seen in the series of outtakes during the end credit roll. Comic timing was almost there, with a major running joke here involving his nuts getting kicked until numb. I'm not sure if being an action star is his cup of team, since he did have his fair share of action films with the likes of Invisible Target, although with a fledging music career also in the wings, such as providing the theme song for this film. This movie may not be that shining star on his filmography, but it does provide an interesting what-if look at how much better he could have perfomed if there was a stronger storyline and characterization. What I feel plaguing most Pan-Chinese co-productions is having to pander to the Mainland's standards of story-telling, of what's righteous and just, which makes the film quite sterile, and in firm deja-vu territory no thanks to blend and generic storylines.

Double Trouble serves up laughs and becomes rather forgettable once you leave the cinema. There's opportunity for a follow up going the other way round with Jay being the tourist this time in Beijing, but that dream will only happen if this one strikes the jackpot at the box office.

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