Insultingly preposterous, overwrought, and shallow. I’d rather watch DRUG WAR again.
Johnnie To has made some of Hong Kong cinema’s most recognizable films, like The Mission, Running on Karma, and Election, to name just a few. I used to love going to see Johnnie To movies, because I knew I would enjoy them.
But unfortunately, I have to say that’s no longer the case. Staring in 2008, with Sparrow and Linger, I’ve found myself enjoying fewer and fewer of his films. It may be because a lot of his work has been aimed at the China market since then, and the restrictions that come with that focus tend to make films that are, to me, uninteresting at best… and aggravating at worst.
In fact, the only film of his that I really liked since 2007’s Mad Detective was 2013’s Blind Detective. I didn’t even watch Office, because I don’t like musicals.
And I had seen the trailer.
I also skipped Office because I had seen Drug War and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2, both of which really annoyed me. So as you may imagine, I was slightly trepidacious (sic)when I went to see Three, Johnnie To’s latest film.
It stars Louis Koo, Zhao Wei and Wallace Chung as a cop, a doctor, and a suspect, respectively. They do a good job in their roles, more or less. The opening of the film seems stilted and obvious. It sets up Zhao Wei’s character, but it comes off as wooden and perfunctory. o too does her performance, but I think a lot of it has to do with her being dubbed into Cantonese. I’m sure she would seem more believable in her native language.
One big problem for the main cast is that the supporting cast are so much more interesting and human and believable. Timmy Hung, Lam Suet, and Lol Hoi Pang steal scenes most of the time they appear in them. They’re not necessarily realistic, but at least they’re entertaining, and these days that’s enough.
In Three, it’s especially welcome.
Look, let’s be clear: I really didn’t like this movie at all. To be honest, I almost walked out about halfway through it. I haven’t done that since Love at 7th Sight. Here’s some of the reasons why.
I’m not a police officer, and I’m not a medical doctor. But I’m not mentally challenged, either. I understand movies have to employ a certain amount of implausible events, characters and ideas in order to move a story forward. The problem arises when writers take gigantic liberties with things like basic police and medical procedure.
As far as this hospital and this police force are concerned, logic and plausibility have obviously been branded Falun Gong practitioners and been taken to the basement where their organs are stripped like a stolen car.
The relevance of that particular metaphor will be made clear later.
If I can’t believe anything that happens in a movie, how can I get caught up in the story? Three is quite literally unbelievable. But it did teach me things.
Did you know that doctors can blithely walk into a sterile operating theater without any problems? And that when they do decide to participate in the surgery, it only takes about 20 seconds for them to scrub up?
Did you know that a 9mm hollow point projectile fired from a handgun at close range into the right temple can traverse the brain and not kill someone? All it apparently leads to is a bad CGI nosebleed. He’s apparently in no pain and can converse wittily with all those people around him? He’s lucid, and only has adverse reactions when the script needs him to.
Oooh, it’s like Viral Factor 2 in this bitch!
Speaking of speaking to (?) other people, did you know that Hong Kong police put dangerous wounded suspects in an open ward with regular patients and allow the suspect to chat with them?
Did you know they let them watch live TV coverage of a crime he may have instigated? Well, now you know.
Did you know that a patient who’s been restrained can get loose and wander not just the ward his bed is in but the entire hospital? And no one notices him fiddling around in the nurse’s stations?
Did you know seizure medications wear off in just 20 minutes?
Did you know pulling an IV tube out of your hand only results in a tiny amount of (CGI) blood?
Did you know hospitals are so clean that a dozen people can get shot in a ward and there’s not a drop of blood on the floor?
Did you know some cops are so inept and downright dumb that you can’t really be sure he’s not an escapee from the mental health ward just pretending to be a cop? God forbid he looks at what he saw someone put in a trash bin. This is after he opens the trash bin and picks it up. No, that’ll wait til later.
Speaking of dumb policing, did you know that the best person to replace a veteran detective on a suspect watch is a fat rookie who may as well be wearing a sign that says “I’m gonna f@#$ up. Badly”?
I’m not an unreserved fan of the Hong Kong police, but I refuse to believe that they and the local medical profession are this careless, unprofessional and dumb. I realize you need some things to be a little unrealistic to move a story, but Three ends up being unbearably farcical.
And not in a good way.
The only people who could e fooled by this appalling lack of detail are the people on the head trauma ward. Even they might not be fooled.
On a personal level, I’m really tired of local movies somehow trying to establish a character’s intelligence or erudition by having them make these obnoxiously obscurantist (!) references and quotes. It’s even worse when they get them wrong.
The Bertrand Russell story is about a turkey, not a chicken, f@#$o.
For that matter, if you’re going to throw yourself down the stairs to break your neck, it might help if you took off the f@#$ing neck brace first.
Maybe Johnnie To is trying to make some kind of trenchant observation about Hong Kong, specifically, for example, the pressure put on the city’s health care system by an influx of people from the mainland.
And maybe he’s trying to highlight the changing nature of Hong Kong’s police force, who were once rightfully called Asia’s Finest.
But I don’t believe it, because the film ends with not one but two scenes which, intentionally or not, make the movie completely acceptable to the China Market. The only reason
I wasn’t more offended was because A) I was just glad it was over and B) I was still recovering from the ridiculous finale with the awful green screen.
Though the first ending scene does feature an awfully obvious CGI shaven head.
By the time Three was over, I was just… confused. And grateful. I didn’t enjoy the much-talked about finale that supposedly took months to rehearse and film. As I sat through it, I just couldn’t understand why it was even there. But the more I thought about it, I realized I could ask that about the whole movie.
Maybe Johnnie To was having a tiff (squabble?) with his investors or something. Maybe he didn’t really want to make this movie. I don’t know. What I do know is that in potentially attempting to annoy those above him, he has probably annoyed (what’s left of) his local audience. I saw this movie on a Saturday morning because it was cheaper. There may have been 20 people in the cinema. I think maybe Johnnie To is beginning to lose favor with the audience that made him famous.