Johnnie To's Three takes place pretty much entirely in a singular location: a hospital in Hong Kong. When the movie begins, a man named Shun (Wallace Chung) is wheeled into the emergency room, a bullet lodged in his brain. Accompanying him are a few cops, led by Chief Inspector Ken (Louis Koo). It seems he was one of a few culprits who just recently tried to pull off the armed robbery of a jewelry store and he was shot in the ensuing crossfire.
Put under the care of Dr. Tong Qian (Wei Zhao), Shun is surprisingly calm for a man with a bullet in his head. The doctors agree to operate in just a few hours, but Shun pushes back. We know early on that something isn't quite right here. The cops are acting suspicious, getting pushy with Qian and taking a very antagonistic stance with Shun, while the patient himself seems to be waiting for something. Ken knows that the other members of Shun's gang are still out there, and he figures maybe he should play along and hopefully take down the entire gang in one fell swoop.
The first hour of this eighty-eight minute feature is devoid of any action whatsoever. It's a series of mind games with Ken, Tong Qian and Shun all playing against one another for their own specific reasons. There are supporting characters here: a few other doctors and nurses, a few other police officers and of course, some eccentric patients, each one as needy as the next, but maybe not so surprisingly the movie focuses on its three core inhabitants. We don't get to know the three principals as well as we should, however. The performances are decent. Koo is the tough and stern top cop, Chung well cast as the sly criminal who may actually hold the upper hand here and Wei Zhao perfectly solid as the doctor trying to do the right thing, but the characters are not particularly deep. Still, there are moments in the first two thirds of the film to keep our interest: some gory surgery, some ominous foreshadowing in the form of a character whistling some Beethoven, some quirky comedy and just the basic knowledge that, this being a To movie, it's probably going to hit the fan before the end credits roll.
And it does. It hits the fan in a big way. To's abilities as an action movie director are impressive and here he goes all out with a finale that delivers well over fifteen minutes of straight, non-stop action. When both sides are left with nothing to lose and all bets are off, the guns come out and both sides go at it with seemingly unlimited ammo. The crossfire takes its share of casualties while everyone else in the hospital it completely caught in the middle. It's an impressive concept, though the execution is… not perfect. It's so heavy on CG and green screen work that the slow motion bodies flying through the air with gritted teeth and bullets flying about seem like a cut scene from a video game. There's definitely an artisanship to what's done here, but it's undercut by some poor musical choices and some unnecessarily melodramatic moments. Still, well practical effects and proper stunt work would have made this sequence mind blowing, it's still good enough to make Three worth checking out, particularly for those with an affinity for To's visual and storytelling styles.
Well Go USA presents Three on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. Shot digitally, obviously there are no problems with any print damage, dirt or debris nor is there any grain to discuss. As such, the image is pristine. Color reproduction is spot on and black levels are reference quality. Skin tones also look nice and natural here while detail and texture are typically very strong, though things do get a little soft in spots during the hyper-stylish and CG heavy shoot out at the end. There are no compression artifacts to note and all in all, this transfer shapes up very nicely indeed.
Cantonese language options are provided in DTS:X 5.1 and DTS-HD 2.0 stereo with optional subtitles provided in English only. The DTS-X mix on this disc is pretty impressive. For the first sixty to seventy minutes of the movie there isn't much action, so the surround activity is limited to mostly background and ambient noise, the type of thing you'd hear in the background at a hospital. Once the film's main action set piece kicks in, however, the soundstage erupts into a beautifully chaotic orchestra of gunfire. The levels are nicely balanced throughout and as you'd expect from a movie this recent, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note.
There's not a lot here in terms of extras. Master Director Johnnie To is a two and a half minute long featurette where the cast talk about their experiences working with To on the film (at one point Wei Zhao insists that he's not as mean as many people have said). Three Complex Characters is a three minute piece featuring input from the main cast members about the characters that they play in the film. Both of these are fairly EPK style in nature, not much substance here unfortunately, but they do include some interesting behind the scenes footage.
Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Well Go USA properties, menus and chapter selection.
Three takes its time to get going but once it does, the payoff is pretty nuts. Thankfully the buildup is solid, as the picture crafts a trio of thinly written but reasonably well acted characters and sets them against one another in unexpected ways. Well Go USA's Blu-ray is light on extras but it looks and sounds great. This isn't To's best film, not by a long shot, but it's decent entertainment. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.