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Protégé de la Rose Noire

Ekin Cheng, Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung in Protégé de la Rose Noire.

Chinese: 見習黑玫瑰  
Year: 2004  
Director: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, Barbara Wong Chun-Chun
Producer: Carl Chang
Action: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan
Cast: Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Gillian Chung Yun-Tung, Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin, Teresa Mo Sun-Kwan, Faith Woo (Wo Chi-Yiu), Chris Yen Chi-Ching, Hui Siu-Hung, Tats Lau Yi-Tat, Patrick Tang Kin-Won, GC Goo Bi, Lo Hoi-Pang, Lo Meng
The Skinny: More Twins+Ekin Cheng silliness which could tax the patience of even those who enjoyed The Twins Effect. The girls are adorable (if you're not sick of them), but the nonexistent script, uninspired comedy, and general mindlessness make this a hit-or-miss affair. It's a hit if you loooooove the Twins. It's a miss if you're anyone else.
by Kozo:

Not tired of them yet? Good, because they're back with a vengeance. Those ubiquitous Twins invade the big screen once again with Protégé de la Rose Noire, an action comedy which attempts to mix the old with the new. The old: a plotline which draws from the popular Black Rose films from the sixties, and a large supporting role for Teresa Mo, a regular staple of early nineties comedies. The new: the Twins, who bring their trademark cuddliness to the roles of two black-garbed superheroes who fight to free Hong Kong from...something. The identity of that something is where Protégé trips itself up, as the story of this obvious piece of fluff is nonexistent as to be nearly offensive. It's okay for silly Lunar New Year spectacles to have thin plots, but when they're this empty and pointless, it's hard to be nice.

Sandy (Charlene Choi) is a supposed extraterrestrial who gets kicked out of a shelter for pregnant single mothers because, well, she's not pregnant. She ends up hooking up with Gill (Gillian Chung), a ultra-talented school girl who goes nuts and whups ass when someone says her full name. The two start off as instant buddies, but become rivals when they decide to compete for a mystery apprenticeship and the free room and board that comes with it. Hitching a ride with unbelievably wacky taxi driver Jim Lo (Ekin Cheng, whose Chan Ho-Nam days have never been farther behind him), the two reach their destination, a gothic mansion/hideout for the Black Rose (Teresa Mo), a former superhero who dresses and acts like she's in the Hong Kong version of The Addams Family.

Black Rose is apparently unstable; not only does she flip-flop personalities, but she also appears to be smarting from the loss of a former love. After nearly killing her two new houseguests, she turns to training and pampering them, but not before they've asked Jim Lo to come to their rescue. Jim does, and promptly ditches his normal everyday wear for a costume that resembles Robin of "Batman and Robin" fame. This leads to the near-fatal sight of Ekin Cheng daring the Black Rose's robot servant, Jacket, to attack his crotch. You see, Jacket, whose defining feature is a pair of large shears, safeguards his mistress and her young charges, and as such is offended by any phallus-like objects. Thus, Jim Lo's manhood is in jeopardy, if not by Jacket, then by the Black Rose herself, who goes after Jim with a large knife. Meanwhile, Sandy falls for Jim, Jim falls for Sandy, and the heartbreaking past of the Black Rose is revealed. At least, that's what the DVD cover says.

Basically, Portage de la Rose Noire makes next to no sense, and this is BEFORE you factor in the climactic action sequences, which are between the Twins and taller, sexier girls who only make their presence known in the last twenty minutes of the film. Apparently, the bikini-clad lead baddie (Faith Woo) is a former charge of the Black Rose, and she's angry for some reason or another. She also leads a group of similarly-attired evil girls, including director Donnie Yen's younger sister Chris Yen, who plays a Gogo Yubari-like schoolgirl assassin who whups ass convincingly. Exactly what these girls are up to and why they're so reviled is a total mystery. Basically, they're here just to be antagonists to the cute-as-heck terrible twosome, which is probably expected, but is hardly a justification for the incredible nonsense going on.

Then again you might as well kiss any reasoning good-bye, as it appears that Protégé de la Rose Noire's rhyme and reason was lifted from a Wong Jing filmmaking guide, or maybe just The Spy Dad. Logic and reason are hardly expected from this sort of automatic nonsense filmmaking, but if you can't bring inspired, creative silliness then you better counter with good jokes. Unfortunately, the shtick that occurs here is largely uninteresting, repetitive, or just plain unfunny. If anything, Protégé provides consistent amusement, but most of that amusement is of the "aw, isn't that cute?" variety. It's cute to see Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung mug like mad, and it's definitely cute to see them ape Jackie Chan's moves from Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle's Shadow. But that's all it is: cute. Yes, the girls are adorable, and seeing them act tough is a joy to those who enjoy Hello Kitty death matches, but at the end of the day, this is not what you'd call an actual cinematic experience. There has to be more to a film than a couple of stuffed animals.

Well, there is, but it's probably not enough. Teresa Mo gratefully hams up a storm as the Black Rose, and Ekin Cheng is a good sport at comic humiliation, if nothing else. There are also your usual movie parodies (Jackie Chan flicks and yep, The Matrix again), and some action to keep you possibly occupied. But again, what makes or breaks Protégé de la Rose Noire is not the quality of Donnie Yen's action, nor is it the quality of Ekin Cheng and Teresa Mo's performances. Nope, it all comes down to the fateful question: do you love Twins? Do you find their bunny-hopping giddy girlishness to be infectiously entertaining? Or do the antics of two pre-packaged Cup 'o Noodles-hawking girls grate on your nerves? If you can answer that question sufficiently, then you may know if Protégé de la Rose Noire will be amusing for you. It won't tell you if the movie is good, because let's face it, this IS NOT a good movie. But if you love (or "luv", in the current vernacular) the Twins, you might be able to overlook that. (Kozo 2004)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
English and Cantonese Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Photo Gallery, Trailers

image courtesy of Universe Laser Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen