Tuesday, June 28, 2016


I used to complain about stuff not playing Boston a lot, but new Johnnie To movies right around the time they open in China (heck, if I read the release dates right, a week before it opens in Hong Kong) makes up for a fair amount of that. And, heck, it's only nine months or so since Office.

The new To film coming out right now makes for some weird scheduling in the northeast, tough, as I kind of wonder if the folks attending the New York Asian Film Festival will be trying to cram a showing of this in before or after their other shows for the day. Sure, if you're attending that festival, you like these sorts of movie, but it's a lot all at once, and then this. It's also not booked for Montreal this week, but will run in the Fantasia International Film Festival. It's a bit odd to me that Montreal supports that festival pretty well, but when I'm looking at the list of places a Chinese film will open, that city is not usually on the list. Kind of surprising, but maybe the folks like Well Go and China Lion are a little unsure about releasing a French-subtitled version for what will likely be one theater. There's niche and there's niche, after all.

Good movie, recommended for those who like good, quick thrillers (as I mentioned in the week's preview posting, it's one of three 87-minute movies released in the Boston area this week). And if seeing it now means I've got a bit more of a chance to see something less well-publicized (and maybe have room for Ghostbusters or Star Trek Beyond in Montreal), so much the better.

Saam Yan Hang (Three)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 24 June 2016 in AMC Boston Common #12 (first-run, DCP)

The plot synopsis I read for Three ("Saam Yan Hang" in Cantonese), the latest from Hong Kong's Johnnie To, described a pretty great cat-and-mouse thriller but one which doesn't necessarily have a big role for one of the three leads in question, and that's kind of an issue with the movie To actually made: The story of the doctor doesn't quite fit in with those of the cop and the criminal. Despite that, things get plenty exciting once To and company are able to shift into high gear, following a slow burn with a heck of an explosion.

We meet the doctor first; Tong Qian (Vicki Zhao Wei) is a consulting neurosurgeon at Victoria Hospital whose aggressive treatments have not always led to full recovery, to say the least. Her ward is about to get a new patient - Steven Shun (Wallace Chung Hon-leung), an exceptionally clever and well-read armed robber who took a bullet to the head in a police operation after Chief Inspector "Ken" Chan Wai-lok (Louis Koo Tin-lok) had Constable Sun Yuen-kwok (Lam Suet) hold a gun on him to find out the location of the rest of his gang. It's a mess for Chan, and potentially gets even worse when Shun wakes while being prepped for surgery and refuses treatment, figuring that his gang will be much more able to rescue him from the hospital than a jail cell.

To and the three credited writers have a fairly potent idea in pitting these three people who are at the top of their fields against each other, what with all three of them perhaps being foolishly over-confident in what they can manage - whether it be risky surgeries, rogue police work, or functioning with despite a bullet in one's brain. The trick, it seems, is in getting the audience to realize just how over-ambitious each of the main characters is in a fairly short amount of time, and that's tricky; we never actually see what went down as the police tried to arrest Steven, and that could have given the audience a stronger idea of how both cop and criminal tend to overplay their hands. Establishing Dr. Tong as both brilliant and overconfident is even harder; the opening scenes are filled with awkwardly spoken "Cantonenglish" jargon from the hospital staff, and it's hard for a layperson to see the line between necessary and dangerous risks, given that what Tong does is literally brain surgery.

Full review on EFC.

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