Three [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Well Go USA
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (26th March 2017).
The Film

Three different individuals are thrown together in a life-and-death struggle when their paths cross in this action packed drama directed by Johnnie To. Fans of director To’s work will find much to savor here as he delivers the goods in this tense hospital setting. The tension mounts between the principal characters: Doctor Tong (Zhao Wei), a dedicated sleep-deprived brain surgeon committed to saving patients’ lives, Inspector Ken Shen (Louis Koo), an obsessed police inspector that is willing to bend the law to his will for justice, and master criminal Shun (Wallace Chung), a patient with a bullet lodged in his skull and given hours to live. The three of them are at the heart of this drama that is set on a slow burn setting as To expertly escalates the suspense slowly, notch by notch. The formula is simple, but To masterfully brings things to a cinematic crescendo in a show stopping four minute single camera pan that mixes the best of digital special effects with an amazing piece of choreography that is the shootout scene to top all shootout scenes, as cops and bad guys each try to outgun the other. Major props are to be given to To as he delivers a claustrophobic thriller that is enclosed in a busy hospital setting. Could there be a worse place for a criminal showdown?

But let’s back up to the beginning of the drama. We are introduced to the three characters in brief but thoroughly developed shots that quickly give us a shorthand explanation to what their motivations may be. We see Dr. Tong making the rounds with the staff as she is told that her latest patient is temporarily paralyzed from a risky operation that she undertook regardless of being warned against the consequences of the procedure. The patient is an angry young man who cries out that he will sue the doctor for her error in trying to do the right thing for him. Into this scenario is wheeled an injured suspect that is the boss of a gang of jewel thieves that has been terrorizing Hong Kong. He is accompanied by the law officer who was interrogating the suspect when his pistol discharged accidentally. The news people are swarming all over this as the police inspector and his charges are brought into the hospital. Inspector Ken will not allow the suspect out of his sight and he knows that sooner or later the criminal’s cohorts will come looking for him, but the clock is ticking and valuable time is being wasted. Shun is not your typical thug; he is downright brilliant and quotes from the police handbook, chapter and verse, stating that his rights as a patient are being violated and that no one can force him to go under the knife. Dr. Tong is extremely worried about this situation because she has already had two other cases go wrong on her – she does not need a third causality – but her moral implications are being played with and they are compared and contrasted with Inspector Ken’s vow to see justice done regardless of anyone’s say so. These two characters are opposed to each other and both are being manipulated by Shun as he proves to be a master chess player, his life against the clock and the arrival of his thugs. Who will win this war of nerves?

To displays his masterful capabilities in this film by having everything take place in the present tense; we are all too aware of the progression of time: the patient only has six hours to be operated on. Inspector Ken tries to have a phone number traced but this only leads to more mayhem from the robbers. Dr. Tong’s attention is torn between the previous two operations and whether or not she will be able to successfully perform the removal of the bullet from Shun’s skull. This is all placed within the organized chaos of the busy hospital setting. The screenplay by Yau Nai-hoi, Lau Ho-leung and Mak Tin-shu adds an odd mix of humor to the scene with several minor characters including an elderly man in the next bed who constantly causes commotion by sneaking out of his restraints, an overweight detective named “Fatty” who attempts to pursue a gang member that is concealing bombs throughout the hospital and gets a large knife stuck in his buttocks for his trouble, and a computer-happy patient in search of a power source for his laptop. These characters are minor players and are a tad distracting at their worst, but the major focus of the film is the earlier mentioned three main characters.

The plot continues building the suspense until in the third act when the criminal’s gang arrives just as the planted explosives begin to explode around the building; this is the payoff to the entire film as a huge shoot-out between the warring factions: +the cops and thugs blast away at each other, innocent bystanders be damned. What follows is a tour de force of direction as the cast enact a slow motion massacre (Variety reports that rehearsal of the scene took three months) and that all the while To’s restless camera threads around, over, and under various characters as they fire their weapons and are struck by the seemingly endless barrage of bullets. This scene is sure to be discussed by action fans for generations to come. But even this scenario is to be topped as the three characters become entangled in a gravity defying battle involving Inspector Ken and the wily Shun dangling from a window while Dr. Tong looks on helplessly. The last scene tidies everything up cleanly and we see Shun confined to a bed, paralyzed and helpless, after the surgery to save his life ultimately fails. In a bizarre conclusion, justice is indeed served. Johnnie To once again proves that he is a man that can deliver the goods when it comes to the Asian action genre.

Video

Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p HD (24/fps) mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression. The video is most impressive with a mixture of CGI and unique camera positioning, To's camerawork is constantly moving and the reproduction is vivid and clear.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in Cantonese DTS:X 5.1 surround as well as Cantonese DTS-HD 2.0 stereo. The 5.1 audio track is excellent with woofer shaking explosions and plenty of gunshots ringing throughout the battle sequence, dialogue is crystal clear as well. There are optional English subtitles for the main feature in a white font.

Extras

Well Go USA has included a short collection of extras in the form of featurettes and bonus trailers, they include:

"Making of Three" featurette (1:06), features brief interviews with the stars regarding the filmmaking process.

"Master Director Johnnie To" featurette (3:12), includes various clips from scenes of the film, discusses the director and his work ethic.

"Three Complex Characters" featurette (3:12), character study of the three main participants of the film.

Bonus trailers are included for:

- "Sky on Fire"
- "Cold War 2"
- "Operation Mekong"

Overall

Not the most cerebral of To’s oeuvre, but nonetheless engaging and certainly entertaining with a unique hospital setting and three conflicted characters.

The Film: B- Video: A Audio: A Extras: C- Overall: B

 


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