Review: THREE 三人行 (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Review: THREE 三人行 (2016)

Review: THREE 三人行 (2016)

Set entirely in the hospital, THREE revolves around three main characters: One is a young neurosurgeon named Tong Qian (Zhao Wei), who's been wrestled guilt over bad medical judgment to her two patients. Another one is Inspector Chen (Louis Koo), a hardened cop who just break the law upon trying to apprehend a wanted criminal. The wanted criminal in question is the third character named Shun (Wallace Chung), a robber who has a bullet lodged in his head. In order to survive, Tong urges him to perform a brain surgery but Shun refuses treatment. Soon, the clock is ticking as Shun patiently awaits his gang members to rescue him while Chen and the rest of the police are on standby for the eventual confrontation.

REVIEW: Of late, Johnnie To has been exploring his newfound obsession with chamber piece. Otherwise known as a genre that usually involves a number of characters confined in a limited space, To has already tested the waters earlier on in last year's musical dramedy OFFICE. This year, he chooses to continue exploring the same genre for the second time in a row with THREE, on which he combines chamber piece with his signature blend of crime drama.

In THREE, this movie also marked the second time To uses a hospital as the primary setting after HELP!!!, on which he co-directed with Wai Ka-Fai back in 2000. Scripted by Yau Nai-Hoi, Lau Ho-Leung and Mak Tin-Shu, THREE sees To taking his time building the tension as well as suspense through a series of riveting characters interplay between Tong, Inspector Chen and Shun.

Speaking of the three main characters, the cast is a mixed bag. Louis Koo, who last collaborated with To in 2013's DRUG WAR, delivers a suitably tense and no-nonsense performance as Inspector Chen. Wallace Chung fares better as Shun, whose sneaky mannerism as well as the playfulness of his character is downright fun to watch for. But Zhao Wei turns out to be quite a disappointment. Even though she is given a meaty role as a guilt-stricken neurosurgeon, Wei spends most of the time looking lost and emotionally detached to the point it's hard to feel sorry for her character.

While the primary tone of THREE is mostly serious, To never forget to balance the movie with his signature inclusion of eccentric supporting characters. That include Lo Hoi-Pang, who plays a childish elderly patient, Timmy Hung as the IT-obsessed nerdy patient who refuses to leave the hospital and Lam Suet as the clumsy yet absent-minded cop.

Then, of course, no To's crime movie would be complete without his brand of gunplay and violence. Unlike his last crime movie in DRUG WAR, the action is kept to a bare minimum. Even so, To ensures all the deliberately-paced buildup is well worth the wait once the climax kicks in. Easily the most memorable scene in the movie, To employs a slow-motion tracking shot that lasted about four minutes as the shootout begins between the cops and the criminals. What's even more interesting about this particular shot is To's unique approach of shooting the slow motion done in a manual simulation! An act that reportedly took three months to rehearse and perfect every single move, it was nevertheless a sight to behold.

But shortly after the aforementioned shootout scene, the movie quickly nosedives with a disappointingly anticlimactic finale. If that's not enough, the subsequent ending that sees Inspector Chen confronting Shun is ruined from a shoddy mix of fake-looking CG and bad green-screen work.

Comparing with his superior work in DRUG WAR, THREE may seem like a lesser entry for Johnnie To. However, despite some of the shortcomings, the movie still proves that To always has his unique ways to blend his favourite crime genre with a new and interesting idea on display.

THREE is far from Johnnie To's best work but remains a fascinating, if uneven chamber piece packed with a showstopping four-minute shootout scene filmed in a slo-mo tracking shot.

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