Director Johnnie To’s new movie, Three, plays like an adequately-balanced hybrid of genres than a crime thriller in some ways, but you still get a lot of what you’ll be looking for, save for just a few holes and some bad CG and cardboard performances among other things. It’s also the first Johnnie To film I’d seen in a long while so I’m sort of coming at this with somewhat of a fresh perspective and from an experience that gladly wasn’t entirely for nothing.
The film picks up at a hospital where we meet a doctor (Vicky Zhao) belaguered by the pressure to be a successful surgeon, and a Hong Kong inspector (Louis Koo) under the duress of an overbearing press crowd as he escorts a high-profile robbery suspect with a bullet in his head (Wallace Chung). The suspect awakens and decides to exercise his right not to be treated to surgery – the first of an intricate plan to orchestrate his rescue while our Inspector, ensuing in a deadly game of chess that will determine who wins and loses, and at what price.
I loved the overall tone of the story from start to finish, and even some parts of the script especially some of the more analogical moments of levity and clarity between some of our supporting characters, including Eddie Cheung who plays senior doctor to Zhao’s role. It certainly helps too, especially considering Zhao’s performance as a stoic doctor wrought with the pressures of being good at her job leaves us pressured to try and see past her stone-faced and demure aura; It’s not until somewhere in the third act that we actually see some acting from her happening, and it does get fun for a few moments.
Koo’s performance is equally reserved and often stone-faced, but flourishes as well for a few moments opposite as Chung who gives us a doable criminal mastermind. The two engage in a nice little on-again-off-again battle of wits with Zhao’s role caught amid the conflict of inteterests between the cops on hand and the doctors trying to do their jobs. Throughout all of this is the cunning insertion of actor Hoi-Pang Lo as one of the hospital’s seeming resident patients. His performance brings some of the best you’ll see out of this one among some of the smaller roles, including that of actor Lam Suet who plays one of Koo’s subordinates.
To has quite a number of things happening throughout the film and it’s a little hard to keep up with at times, particularly in the second act when things start to slow down. Using Mozart as a tool gives you something to lean on for suspense and adds more to the intriguing, menacing nature of Chung’s role which makes it all the more entertaining. The climatic gun battle near the end is a lot of fun, and while some may see it as a bit gimmicky, I’d say it was just as necessary after more than an hour of waiting for Zhao to come out of hypnosis.
Three has a lot going for itself in tems of its formula. It’s a watchable medical drama, blended with thrilling crime and suspense. It gets a little campy in the middle but if you can forgive that and all the other things I mentioned and look forward to the more colorful parts of this film, you’ll likely find yourself humored and entertained when needed.
Three opens in select theaters on June 24 courtesy of Well Go USA.