Three (Saam Yan Hang) (2016)
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Critic Reviews for Three (Saam Yan Hang)
Decidedly minor stuff for such a major filmmaker, but there's something remarkable about watching a master like Johnnie To reverse-engineer an entire thriller from one idea he just had to try - in this case, a shootout unlike any you've seen before.
Director To fills in the messy back story neatly as he introduces the supporting players, who provide comedy or menace (and sometimes both).
To trusts his actors, and uses them so well that you often forget that we don't know much about them beyond the worried look in their eyes, the smirk on their lips and the arch of their brows.
It's not a career highlight for the director. But a relatively ordinary film from Mr. To packs more genuine entertainment value than what passes for above-average Hollywood action fare these days.
Audience Reviews for Three (Saam Yan Hang)
I've seen a few Johnnie To films in my lifetime. Perhaps not as many as I would like, but I've seen my fair share of them. This is news to people who may come across these reviews on Letterboxd, where I have 2899 reviews less than I do on Flixster (19 on Letterboxd to 2918 on Flixster, to be exact and I'm including this film in those numbers), but I find Johnnie To to be one of the best I've ever seen at crafting exquisite shootout sequences. There's a gracefulness to these scenes and how he crafts them that, really, very few people on this earth can actually match. Out of all the movies of his I've watched, Drug War has got to be my favorite. It's got a really compelling story and some excellent shootouts. Exiled also comes to mind immediately. This film, however, takes a more subdued approach to this as the film tells the story of this master criminal, after being shot in the head (and living) and refusing treatment at the hospital to remove the bullet that is in his brain, holding out for long enough to give his cronies, or something, enough time to get to the hospital to bust him out. This idea is flawed in theory since the longer the bullet is stuck in his head, the doctor wants to operate on him immediately, the more likely he is to be incapacitated permanently. I'll be honest, and this is referring to my Flixster reviews since this is my first Johnnie To review on Letterboxd, I don't think I've disliked a Johnnie To movie ever. From what I can see of my own reviews, no Johnnie To movie has ever received anything less than 3 stars. Well, that is, until today. Yea, I wasn't a big fan of this movie I'm being perfectly straightforward. I honestly think it's near impossible for this man to make a movie that is bad, considering his experience and track record. I think he's got enough experience to know how to, at least, craft a decent enough movie. And this is what this flick ends up being. I really did love this film's concept, because the big moment, that led to this criminal being sent to this hospital, happened off-screen. You don't actually get to see any of it so, in reality, there's no real reliable narrators here, as it were. You can't buy the cops' story that this criminal was shot in self-defense and you can't really trust the criminal with his manipulations and machinations to get his way. But, if I'm being fair, I just didn't find this film to be that interesting. I get the whole deal is to build up tension for when the criminal's buddies show up and the eventual shootout with the cops take place, but I just didn't find this form of storytelling to be that compelling. The film is certainly loquacious, but these people don't really seem to be saying anything of actual importance. The film does this juggling act of focusing on the showdown with the cops and the criminals with also focusing on other patients and the lead doctor's struggles with not being able to do her job as perfectly as she believes she can do it. The problem with all these ancillary characters is the fact that they don't really add much of anything to the main narrative. It's not like all these characters, together, contribute something of value to the A-team, as it were, they're just there because the film would have been way too short without them. Everyone is waiting for the climactic shootout, but I don't think the film is as taut as the premise may make it sound. You're just waiting for something to happen like you'd wait at a doctor's for 90 minutes before he is able to see you. There's no real tension to anything that is going on here. You know it's gonna come down to the climactic shootout, but you're not even really looking forward to it that much. Don't misunderstand me, the film is never bad, like at any point. But watching it feels more like a chore than anything else. And, this is something I've always believed, a chore to sit through is the worst thing a movie can be. You can take it or leave it and, if you do leave it, you wouldn't even be bothered by not having finished it. And that's just wrong. Plus it makes reviews more difficult to write since you don't really care much about anything, so you're not even motivated to write a review. With a shitty movie, you get to release all that stress and a negative review can, almost, be therapeutic. With a great movie, well, I mean you get to rave about an awesome movie and that's always fun. I just felt that if the film had anything to say while you're waiting for the shootout, then it wouldn't have been so bad. But there's no real point. The narrative just drags its feet. And then comes the shootout. You know how I said Johnnie To was the best at shootouts. Well, they can't all be winners. The idea is solid in theory. The entire scene plays out in slo-mo and you get to go all over the hospital, seeing the shootout from all possible angles with everyone in the hospital being caught in the crossfire. The problem I have with this is the fact that there's some moments where the actors themselves seem to be purposely walking in slo-mo and it's not an effect added in post-production. It looks so fucking bad and cheesy, because, and I only really noticed it twice, the actors do these really over-the-top and exaggerated slo-mo walk and it's just completely amateurish. The editing of the shootout also isn't perfect, but the placement of everybody and the actual shooting itself was, easily, the highlight of the film. It's just sad that one of the best people at pulling this type of scene off just had, from what I've seen, his first misfire. Good idea in theory, execution left a lot to be desired though. By and large, the rest of the movie is a misfire as well. It feels too long at 88 minutes, it just doesn't have an interesting narrative to sustain itself for the entire running length and that is on full-display when you actually sit down to watch this. Johnnie To has done much, much better and the intriguing concept is, really, just that. They barely do anything with it other than give you a dull and uninteresting film to sit through for its first 70 minutes, which is when the shootout happens. The shootout itself has a good idea, but the execution is really corny and substandard compared to Johnnie To's best works. Everything after that point is just closing out a disappointing movie in a disappointing fashion. While I'd say that this was fine, at best, as a fan of Johnnie To, this is just a major disappointment. I can't really give it any sort of recommendation, honestly. I gotta give them props for trying to do something different, but the movie just misses the mark. Watch Drug War or Exiled if you can find them somewhere else, those are quality movies. I'm feeling that 2.5 stars is really a generous rating, given the fact that I found very few positives about this. But I'll stick with that rating, since I feel that two stars is way too low. Watch this at your own risk, but I did not enjoy in the slightest.
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