Vicki Zhao, Wallace Chung, Louis Koo, Jonathan Wong, Eddie Cheung Siu-fai, Tommy Hung, Lo Hoi-pang, Michael Tse, Raymond Wong
Well Go USA, Media Asia Films, Milky Way Image Company, Shanghai Hairun Film and TV Production
I was immediately drawn to Three for two reasons — the first being director Johnnie To, easily the most renowned action director in Hong Kong today, and second is the fact that the hospital setting with gun play gave me instant tones of John Woo’s Hard Boiled, one of my very favorite action films. Three is nothing like Hard Boiled aside from the hospital setting and gun play, but it’s a rockin’ good time all the same.
Three focuses on, well, three main roles: Inspector Chen (Louis Koo), brain surgeon Doctor Tong Qian (Vicki Zhao), and a criminal (Wallace Chung) on one fateful evening. The criminal has been shot in the head, the bullet lodged and potentially fatal. Dr. Qian has him prepped for surgery, but when he suddenly becomes alert right before anesthesia, he declares that he doesn’t to be operated on. Given his medical condition, they’re forced to treat him rather than arrest him, and his being in the hospital may not be as accidental as it seems. Inspector Chen is stern, focused, and rightfully doesn’t trust the perp, while Dr. Qian sees the man as a patient that she must save and protect. This conflicting of interests and pressure of power exchange between the three all comes to a head when the criminal manages to make a phone call to some associates. Trouble is on the way.
Three plays with some complex morality and legality issues without ever really getting too deep and overly dramatic. With a brisk running time of around 80 minutes without credits, Three barely has time to establish much of any depth, relying instead on high tensions between the three leads, the delicate situation at hand, and the impending doom. The obvious highlight is the inevitable hospital stand off and a five minute shoot out that To DIDN’T actually shoot in slow motion — the cast simulated it in what Variety pointed out took three months to rehearse. Worth it? Well, there’s nothing like it on film. The camera revolves around a circular hospital ward as everyone’s choreographed movement is captured in the smallest of bloody detail. It’s simply stunning, and I’d be surprised if, once the film gets more notice, it isn’t heralded as one of the all time great action sequences.
Well acted all around, especially Chung’s nutty criminal who you aren’t quite sure is acting out because of brain trauma or simply out of wild abandon. A couple side characters are a bit silly given the tone of the movie, and there are a few well done surgical scenes which don’t have as much to do with the main plot as they do with defining Dr. Qian, but both are minor quibbles. I’m also not sure how much I enjoyed the ending, I need to simmer on it, but it didn’t affect how much I enjoyed the movie. To’s beautiful eye and direction of a solid, tight script is second to none, crafting a multi-layered, textured action film that has very little actual action and yet feels chock full of it thanks to the tension and build up. That action sequence will be in my head forever, I can’t express this enough. Three is a first rate, lean thriller that should be on top your list.
Solid acting, solid direction, solid script -- this thing is rock solid. And that action sequence is one for the books.
Tonally strange side characters, an ending I'm not entirely sure felt resolved.