Friday, 20 March 2015

Jackie Chan in the 1980s - Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars

Released just six months after the last instalment, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars plumbs new depths in mind-numbing incoherence. Although not all-the-way dreadful (Sammo Hung couldn't fuck up an action scene if his life depended on it), the film still has the stale whiff of contractual obligation about it. Sammo Hung kicks off proceedings by taking a forty minute holiday with an extended cast of hangers-on and lookalikes. That's right, Pepsi fanatic Charlie Chin couldn't even be bothered to stick around for the whole film, sending doppelgänger Michael Miu along to make up the numbers instead.

Despite being the director, and therefore theoretically on-set at all times, Hung's role in this early section is fleeting. Maybe he's bored with the series too? Sammo's character Fast Buck kills time mooning over a disinterested Sibelle Hu then sabotages an elaborate peeping tom routine, all while wearing a chubby-toddler-visits-the-circus outfit. You'd swear it was a cameo. Hung looks tired and disinterested, moving with the exasperated snap of a man who knows he's not putting in his best work. 

Sammo's gang are in Thailand sleazing around a group of girls that aren't involved in the story in any way. Since the third act revolves around babysitting a young actress, couldn't she have been introduced earlier with these women as her entourage? Guess not. Instead Richard Ng takes a course in Thai black magic, focusing on sexual magnetism and makeshift Voodoo dolls.

The ladies play along with Ng's supernatural sex appeal until it's funnier not to. That's it for them, as quickly as they're introduced they're discarded to make way for Rosamund Kwan, Twinkle's feature punching bag. Kwan, like Sibelle Hu before her, is grabbed and groped in punishing comedic set-ups that make the Police Academy series look progressive.

All this drudgery plays counter-intuitive to the aims of ensemble films. If the filmmakers are going to crowd out the plot with cartoon characters you should at least feel like the cast are having fun, even if you're not. There's precious little pleasure on display here. Jackie Chan looks pained and overworked. Kwan has the dead-eyed stare of someone pretending to be game. Stanley Fung looks like he wants to punch someone.

Twinkle still has blips of excitement though. Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao drop in briefly as two cops assigned to sit outside a mob boss' house and pull faces. They're joined by rising star Andy Lau for an exemplary warehouse dust-up in which the trio have to ditch their Police special pistols. Why? The set is dressed with barrels of explosive toxic waste, that's why.

Lau is gifted martial arts abilities through some beautiful editing while Biao once again proves he's the safest hands (legs?) in the business. Shame Hung and pals still refuse to let him display much of a personality. Even sandwiched in amongst the film's best elements, Chan's contribution to Twinkle sticks out like a sore thumb. Although injured and clearly frustrated, the actor is able to convey a level of charm utterly lacking anywhere else in the film.

Twinkle's main problem is that it doesn't have a central idea, or really any ideas. To compensate, the film's heaving with guest stars. A last-minute gag involves the entire Hong Kong film industry stampeding out of a lift. They all look like they're nursing a low-level headache. Before that Michelle Yeoh shows up as a Judo instructor in a sequence constructed around the idea that, if pushed, Sammo is happy to hurl a woman around for an adoring teenybop audience. As well as having his female leads fawn all over him. Hung seems to enjoy busing in physically impressive women only to demolish them in one deft shot. It's a very strange point to keep harping on about, but hey, this is Sammo's world.  

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