The Heroic Trio
In my mind this is the ultimate fantasy action
film to come out of HK. It is so creative and stylish and pure fun that
it boggles and charms me even after numerous viewings. Though not based
on a comic book, it certainly has a comic book feel and flair to it but
done with so much more imagination and heart than Hollywood has been able
to produce in their attempts to bring comic books to the screen - and at
a comparatively minuscule budget.
The setting is HK in the near future and the Heroic
Trio are of course - Anita Mui as Wonder Woman; Maggie Cheung as Thief
Catcher and Michelle Yeoh as Invisible Girl. All three have never looked
more stunning or seemed more charismatic as they do here.
The plot - baby boys are being kidnapped by
an evil underground presence in order to once again put an Emperor on the
throne of China. The three super heroines eventually team up after many
plot twists to fight against this evil presence along with his bizarre
finger eating helper - Anthony Wong.
There are many sublimely glorious moments in this
film - Wonder Woman running across the telephone wires to save the baby,
Thief Catcher riding the exploding barrel, Invisible Girl slowly becoming
visible in the convertible, the glance of dim recognition between Wonder
Woman & Invisible Girl in the hospital, Wonder Woman grabbing and holding
Invisible Girl - and so many more. Some perhaps corny and melodramatic
- but just right for his film.
There is simply great heart in this film -
certainly between the three heroines, but also between Wonder Woman and
her husband and between Invisible Girl and her lover. This is just a perfect
film in my mind.
My rating for this film: 10
Reviewed by YTSL
"I choose projects with the people, scripts,
the combination of things. And I really don't care if it's a comedy or
what, you know. I can still have a good trip on that film.
That's how I see it. Each film is a trip for me" (Maggie Cheung,
in Miles Wood's "Cine East", a very nice book of interviews with twelve
Hong Kong movie folk).
"I loved...(THE HEROIC TRIO and "Executioners")
because I got the chance to work with Maggie and Anita. Being on
that set was like holiday time. It was just like being with your
family...we were all so close....Maggie, Anita and I have been such good
friends even before this, and it was great to work on a film together"
(Michelle Yeoh, in an interview that can be accessed via the links page
of Jane Ding's invaluable Michelle
Yeoh web site).
Absolutely the best thing for me about THE HEROIC
TRIO is the very obvious camaraderie and chemistry that abounds among and
binds its three lead characters. I know it sounds corny -- and stupid
even -- but the thought that Anita Mui, Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung
are friendly even when they are not in their Wonder Woman (a.k.a. Tung,
a.k.a. Mrs. Lau), Invisible Girl (a.k.a. San, a.k.a. Ching) and Thief-Catcher
(a.k.a. Chat) personae actually makes this fan-girl happy. Whether
it is an act or not, I am utterly charmed to read such as the above attestations
by -- it should be recognized and remembered -- two star actresses of Hong
Kong movies for two decades (who hopefully, will continue to be so for
many more years to come).
Somewhere (else) on the internet, I have also
read Michelle Yeoh's account of this threesome having had barbecues practically
every night on the set of THE HEROIC TRIO. This image of their happily
kicking back and enjoying each other's company pops into my head during
scenes which feature all three, sometimes even just two, of these women.
While Stefan Hammond and Mike Wilkins (in their ""Sex and Zen" and "A Bullet
in the Head"" book) commend the lead actresses for remaining "admirably
straight-faced throughout the bizarre spectacle" that is this astoundingly
stylish production as a whole, my own -- not necessarily oppositional --
view is that what comes through the most in their performances is the sense
of FUN that they are having doing what they are doing (bar for those thankfully
few times when the script calls for their characters to feel and display
such as sadness, pathos and despair).
It is hard not to smile upon hearing Chat whistling
the tune of "London Bridge is falling down" while setting off to do her
thief catching (especially when one realizes that Maggie Cheung spent most
of her youth in England). One can't help but exult with Wonder Woman
and the watching children after she saves their friend and her pet, then
grin when Mrs. Lau hushes the happy kiddies to make sure that her superheroine
identity is not revealed. The kind of laughter that seems to come
from the belly (inadvertently) issued out of this viewer when watching
Thief Catcher attempt to knock off the head of the Evil Eunuch (interestingly
given, at least in the Cantonese dub, a female voice and alternately referred
to both as a "he" and "she" in the English subtitles) with her own head.
Additionally, I somewhat inexplicably was moved to clap and cheer as well
as grin when the Three Eastern Heroes (since this is the movie's Chinese
title, I assume that is also THE HEROIC TRIO's alternative appellation)
drape on their cloaks before going off and meet the press.
Confession: I enjoyed THE HEROIC TRIO more
this recent second time around rather than on first viewing. This
is due in large part because I was previously (too) majorly in the throes
of Michelle Yeoh fever and, consequently, was somewhat frustrated that
the Invisible Girl was, well, so...invisible for a large part of the picture.
It is also my sense that those who have not yet been thoroughly acclimatized
to the world of Hong Kong movies might find this innovative fantasy too:
Outrageously fantastic (while I can enjoy good "wire-fu" these days, it
initially came across as strange rather than spectacular); shocking (children
do die in violent ways...and this IS the only film I have ever seen which
features a character (played by Anthony Wong) who eats his own chopped
off body parts as well as cute flying birds!); and schizophrenically generally
campy yet also, in parts, seriously dramatic and touching (with regards
to the last, I think here especially of Invisible Woman's scenes with her
scientist love (portrayed by James Pak, who I last saw convincingly be
a major slime ball in "Remains of a Woman"!)).
IMHO, one also should not be too bothered as to
whether there are bona fide in-house jokes in such as the apparently least
domestic of the three actresses being the one playing the happily married
woman in this piece and reputedly the most serious of them acting as the
most irresponsible character. Ditto re not really seeing the three
heroines as representations of the Three Chinas (the Mainland, Taiwan and
Hong Kong) as some people actually have. As I have subsequently realized,
nothing ought to detract a viewer from appreciating the considerable delights
that THE HEROIC TRIO has on offer.
My rating for the film: 8.5.