Like UNDERWORLD, this is an attempt to take vampire mythology and turn it into an excuse for a slick and exciting action thriller. The martial arts action is frequently fun to watch, and the cast is not without its appeal, but these good bits and pieces are stitched together by means of a screenplay that is unusually incoherent, even by the diminished standards of dumb action movies. Forget about plot development and character nuances; this script can’t even figure out which characters should be the ones fighting each other; the final confrontation has a haphazard “well, it had to be somebody” feel.
The premise is built around the concept of an organization of vampire slayers (although, much like the original THE AVENGERS, we never see said organization, only one agent). Judging from the opening battle, our hero loses partners about as fast as Dirty Harry; he blames the organization for sending him unqualified people, but from the available evidence we suspect he doesn’t do a good job watching out for them. Anyway, his sister falls in love with the prince of an Asian vampire clan, who drink blood from goblets but don’t bite unwilling victims. The prince is targeted by the leader a European vampire clan, who needs the prince’s blood to complete a ritual that will allow him to walk in daylight.
The movie is singularly incapable of narrowing its focus. At first it seems to be about breaking in a new partner, but that gets shunted aside when it turns into Romeo-and-Juliet love story between a vampire and a woman whose brother hunts vampires. This story never takes off at all – there is literally no confrontation between the vampire and the vampire hunter over the girl. Instead, the conflict between the Asian and the European vampires takes over, but instead of resolving this through a confrontation between the leaders of the rival clans, the Asian vampire prince is sidelined for the entire ending, while the vampire hunter’s new partner (for no particular reason) handles most of the fighting.
The combination of vampire special effects and human martial arts results in some entertaining fight sequences, but they tend to go on for too long without offering any clever twists or surprises to justify the length. At least, the hyper-kinetic work seen here is miles ahead of what was available in LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1973), an earlier attempt to mix the undead and kung fu.
Midway through, the tone abruptly shifts to outright comedy when Jackie Chan shows up for a cameo as an ambulance driver. Chan delivers a few patented sight gags (he was always as much an old-fashioned silent comedian as a fighter), but his scenes are a bit by the book (and it is sad to note that some of his fight work now requires body doubles).
The scene is also marred by one of the script’s bigger idiocies: attempting to elude the Euro-vampires, our heroes invent some story about needing medical attention so they can get a ride in Chan’s ambulance – but he never asks them why they want to be driven away from the hospital where he finds them.
The distinction between Asian and European vampire clans is mildly interesting for those who enjoy reverse racism (after all those yellow-peril films, do we have a right to complain when white people are cast as the one-dimensional villains?) Otherwise, the cliches are a bit dull. I never want to see another film or read another story in which vampires regard blood like a wine enthusiast savoring a special vintage; also, there should be a moratorium passed on the plot device of vampire seeking a way to survive in sunlight.
Overall, this one is only for fans of hard-core martial arts mayhem, preferably on home video, so that they can fast-forward to the action scenes and skip the non-sensical plot.
The English dub of the film is midly distracting but not much worse than most of its type. Jackie Chan, who is perfectly capable of speaking his own English dialogue, seems to have been dubbed by someone doing a Jackie Chan impersonation.
THE VAMPRIE EFFECT (Chin Gei Bin,a.k.a. “The Twins Effect,” 2003). Directed by Dante Lam, Donnie Yen (billed as co-director). Written by Wai Lun Ng. Cast: Edison Chen, Charlene Choi, Ekin Cheng, Gillian Chung, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Jackie Chan, Mickey Hardt, Josie Ho, Ricardo Mamood-Vega.
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