JOHNNIE TO’S “THREE” – A REVIEW BY HAYDEN PITTMAN

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Johnnie To, referred to by some as the "Jerry Bruckheimer" of Hong Kong and whose work has been considered a hallmark of quality filmmaking in Hong Kong for sometime, is known for being a diverse filmmaker of many genres. In one of his newest films, "Three", he sticks to one of his best genres and creates an action crime thriller that is being praised by many. Having regrettably never seen any of To's other films, I don't have anything to compare it to, but other reviewers like Indiewire, Variety and The New York Times all give "Three" high remarks for its script, acting, visuals and buildup, among other aspects.

Starring Louis Koo, Zhao Wei, and Wallace Chung, "Three" takes place almost completely inside different areas of a hospital. When a criminal is cornered during a gunfight with the police, his solution is to wound himself so that he'll have to go to the hospital. While being cared for, he refuses treatment and refrains from having surgery in order to buy time to wait for his friends to come and break him out. One of the detectives senses something is about to happen, but allows the events to play out in order to try and capture the entire gang of criminals.

While the film's release is limited in the U.S., I had a chance to screen Johnnie To's "Three" online. In the beginning, I didn't fully understand what was going on or really get into it until I got closer to the end of the movie, but by the time the end credits rolled, my views of the film had changed drastically. To start, I'm not used to watching hardly any foreign films, especially ones with subtitles, and in my opinion, subtitles can be extremely disruptive and distracting. Also, depending on the color or background behind the subtitles, it can often be difficult to read them altogether. For me, having to watch and read simply took away from the overall viewing experience. As I got farther into the film and even re watched earlier parts once again, reading the subtitles while watching the movie became easier and almost second nature.

Other than the subtitles and the fact that I expected there to more action, once everything started to make sense, the film was actually quite enjoyable. I was most impressed with the build up to the climax of the film and the visual style of the final shootout in the hospital, as well as the dynamic between the criminal, the lead detective and the criminal, which could very well hint at the title of the film. The final shootout inside the hospital area between the criminals an police is top notch, especially the more or less continuous shot during the fight where the camera appears to float and pan around the room from one person or action to another without cutting to another angle. In my research, I discovered that the slow motion element during this shot/scene was created in real time by the actors and does not use computer or camera effects.

The other reviews I read may be over hyping the film a bit in my opinion, but there's no doubt that Johnnie To is a quality stylistic filmmaker and his new movie "Three" has enough unique elements and intrigue to be worth watching for serious movie enthusiasts or a fan of To's. There's a bit of obvious CGI work at the end of the film, but it doesn't necessarily take anything away from the overall experience. All in all, "Three" is a decent product.

This film was given a limited theatrical release in the U.S. on June 24th, 2016, as well as a release in China and Hong Kong. With a running time of 1 hour and 28 minutes, this film is not currently rated.

3 out of 5 stars.

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