Art, Entertainment

Johnnie To’s Three provides relentless psychological drama, barrels full of of blood, and flawless style

Hong Kong director Johnnie To has created gangster movies with deeper casts, more bullets flying, and cooler flashlight scenes. But Three stands right alongside the best of his lovingly crafted and instantly recognizable body of intense and stylized work.

Frequent To collaborator Louis Koo plays a hard-boiled and desperate cop guarding a batty-but-brilliant criminal (Wallace Chung) who has a bullet lodged deep in his brain. The gangster’s assigned surgeon, portrayed with both impressive conviction and spiraling helplessness by Zhao Wei, struggles with conflicting duties of stopping a thug or upholding the Hippocratic Oath.

With an overworked hospital staff on duty, unhappy and off-the-rails patients in the ER, and undercover cops and gangsters all over the place, what could possibly go wrong?

Neatly packaging the relentless psychological drama and barrels full of of blood is a beautifully crafted movie in which the players and pieces move with the grace of a musical. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Three, which takes place entirely in a hospital, follows To’s adaptation of the stage show Office.

Gangster movie fans will be happy to know that beautifully executed technique does not make the movie any less gripping–although pitch black humor involving stuff like a wheelchair and stairs provides very small measures of relief.

In today’s era of Mainland China’s historical epics and commercial blockbusters, old-school Hong Kong gangster movie fans will savor each of the 90 minutes of hearing Cantonese dialog and seeing guys like Lam Suet on the big screen. And be dazzled by Johnnie To’s artistry and floored by his storytelling every time he touches the genre.

See Three at Atlantic Times Square:

AMC Atlantic Times Square 14
450 N. Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park

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