Three Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Well Go USA
Directed by Johnnie To
Written by Ho Leung Lau and Tin Shu Mak
2016, 88 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on April 4th, 2017
Louis Koo as Chief Inspector Ken
Wei Zhao as Dr. Tong Qian
Wallace Chung as Shun
In the wake of a series of jewelry store robberies, Det. Ken finds solace in the knowledge that he has finally captured Chung, the brilliant leader of the criminals he seeks. Ken’s triumph is short-lived, as an interrogation ends with the suspect clinging to life following an errant bullet to the head. The detective follows Chung to the hospital for emergency surgery, but the patient regains consciousness long enough to refuse the procedure citing his human rights. He is placed in the care of Dr. Tong Qian, an arrogant neurosurgeon with a few recent failures staining her reputation. The detective knows it is only a matter of time before Chung’s gang comes to rescue him and agrees to wait for the moment when he can turn one arrest into several. What is unclear is how long the criminal mastermind will live and how much damage he can cause while handcuffed to a hospital bed.
Three is a fairly by-the-numbers story of cops and robbers that audiences with even a passing awareness of Hong Kong action films will recognize as both familiar and engaging. Yes, the movie is brimming with clichés and a bit of physical comedy squeezed in for good measure, but in the hands of a master storyteller like director Johnnie To (Election), the material is crafted into something much more satisfying. Not everything works, and impatient viewers may be tempted to scan ahead while some of the melodrama plays out. Those willing to commit are in for an interesting ride to say the least. To usually evades many of these narrative traps, but screenwriters Ho Leung Lau and Tin Shu Mak are not doing him any favors. The first hour is a slow-burn drama that follows the three lead characters through one seriously stressful day. To keeps the plot moving in such a way that audiences learn only as much as the character they are following; clues are revealed in a “real time” manner.
The director wins out in the end, for once the restraints are lifted, he shows off his skills by delivering a beautifully realized action set piece that ensures the tale ends with a bang and not a whimper. Some HK cinema action enthusiasts will find this finale comparable to the uninterrupted shot that opens Johnnie To’s Breaking News (2004), while others may declare this the best hospital shootout since John Woo’s Hard Boiled (1992) some twenty-five years ago. I find myself more in line with the former sentiment, but must admit I was expecting something like Hard Boiled once the primary location was revealed. In retrospect, it is this cinematic knowledge that To manipulates to his advantage, since longtime fans will inevitably feel a little uneasy as the filmmaker steadily increases the tension before setting the fireworks free.
Video and Audio:
Picture quality is never an issue with this gorgeous transfer presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The emergency wing of the hospital receives a cold and sterile appearance that does not betray the level of violence that will soon erupt. Colors are deliberately muted but, like the script, spring to life in the finale.
There are two audio choices on this disc. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track does a fine job keeping viewers informed of all the dialogue and action, but audiences will be happy to hear the roar of the DTS-X 5.1 option once the suspense is broken and the violence takes over. While there is nothing wrong with the 2.0 track, once you hear the power behind the 5.1 it will be hard to go back and settle for less.
Optional English and Chinese subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Two featurettes give viewers a behind-the-scenes peek at the production, but these are both unfortunately over before they really begin. Master Director Johnnie To (2 minutes) and Three Complex Characters (3 minutes) offer banal evidence that it was fun working on this picture with a talented director.
The only other extra is a trailer gallery that promotes not only this film, but also a few others available from the distributor.
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