Over the years, it’s been clear that Johnnie To’s main inspiration is Martin Scorsese. If you’re going to aspire, why not look up to the best, right? The most surprising thing — at least probably for American audiences — is that To has been directing since the ’70s. It wasn’t until 2005’s Election that To came on our radar. Granted, the only other To film I’ve seen is 2012’s Drug War — which is excellent — but his new explosive thriller Three is a slow burn of the best kind.
The story is super simple: Dr. Tong Qian (Wei Zhao) works in the emergency room and the police — lead by Chief Inspector Ken (Louis Koo) — has just brought in the criminal Shun (Wallace Chung). Shun has been shot in the head during an interrogation and refuses to allow doctors to operate. Shun has a sinister plan up his sleeve. With the Inspector suspicious of his shenanigans, he hatches his own to set Shun’s in motion, giving Ken the opportunity to capture Shun’s whole crew.
Well Go USA can deliver some incredible looking discs — when afforded the breathing room of a 50GB disc. The first thing I do before I pop in a disc for review is flip it over to see what they’re working with. Unfortunately, Three has been delegated to a 25GB, with the expected anomaly wreaking havoc: banding. Thankfully, that’s about the worst of the picture. The rest is crystal clear with tons of detail causing some of the more gruesome moments to shine. Colors pop, just on the edge of blooming, with crush never an issue as the entire film takes place inside a brightly hospital.
Where things really shine — and makes one scratch their head even more regarding the disc space — is the included Cantonese DTS:X audio track. Downgraded to 7.1, this is a phenomenal mix with incredible pinpoint detail. I can only imagine how much more lifelike it would be with the additional speakers for it to play with. Or a bigger disc to hold it. As it stands, even the most seemingly mundane scene is filled with an active soundscape. And it ramps up even more during the big finale. This being where the bass also finally kicks in. A Cantonese 2.0 Stereo track, along with English and Chinese subtitles are also included.
Considering the disc size, it’s a good thing the special features are scant. A “Making Of” is broken up into two sections: “Master Director Johnnie To” (2:30) and “Three Complex Characters” (3:12). Here, things are swift as the cast talk about themselves, their characters, and working under director To. They’re quick to point out that first impressions may seem like he has a temper, but as he gets to know the cast and crew things get more playful and relaxed. They also point out that To likes to do on set script revisions, something that could be looked down on, but at least they’re coming from the director and not maddening studio head demands. The film’s trailer (1:10) is available, along with previews for Cold War II (available now), Sky on Fire, and Operation Mekong (both available in June).
Action fans are always going to get what they want when they watch a Johnnie To film. With Three, they just may want to know that it takes a bit longer to get to the goods here. Even with the film running a mere 88 minutes, the final 15 tear down the house. The shootout is one for the books and can only be described as stepping right into the middle of a 360-degree war zone. Ho Leung Lau, Tin Shu Mak, and Nai-Hoi Yau’s screenplay stretches the tension to the breaking point, and its balls out until the credits roll. Aside from Zhao’s annoying Dr. Qian getting in the way dramatically here and there, Three is an action film that will leave no one dissatisfied. With almost stellar video, and exemplary audio, the technical aspects — and the finale which has to be seen to be believed — make this one a blind-buy no brainer.