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The Heroic Trio

Hong Kong 1993
produced by
Ching Siu-Tung, Johnnie To, Cora Cheng (executive), Brian Yip (executive) for Paka Hill Productions, China Entertainment Films
directed by Johnnie To
starring Michelle Yeoh (as Michelle Khan), Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung, Damian Lau, Anthony Wong, Paul Chun, James Pak, Yen Shi-Kwan, Lee Siu-Kei, Wong Yut-Fei, Chen Zhuoxin, Jiang Haowen, Ruan Zhaoxiang, Xu Tao, Zheng Ruisheng, Mimi Zhu
written by Sandy Shaw, music by William Wu, martial arts direction: Ching Siu-Tung

Heroic Trio

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Someone is stealing the babies of the city, and rivaling superheroines Wonder Woman (Anita Mui) and Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung) are trying to track down whoever it is - but their enemy is not only an expert martial artist but is also invisible.

Their enemy is of course the Invisible Woman (Michelle Yeoh), top assassin of the eunuch Evil Master (Yen Shi-Kwan), who needs the babies to make one into China's next emperor and make his next batch of assassins out of the others. When she's not an assassin though, Invisible Woman is a loving wife to her husband (James Pak), the inventor of the robe that makes her invisible. Thing is, he doesn't know about her other identity while she receives orders from Evil Master to kill him, orders she just cannot fulfill - just like she couldn't kill Thief Catcher, who was once also one of Evil Master's trainees, years ago.

Eventually, Invisible Woman breaks down under the guilt she feels from serving Evil Master and she switches sides and teams up with Thief Catcher and Wonder Woman to fight him - but by that time, Evil Master has already released Kau (Anthony Wong) onto the city, an assassin much more ruthless and brutal than her, and apart from that he's also almost invulnerable and kills innocents for fun. It takes all three women to stop Kau, and in the process, Wonder Woman's husband, police inspector Lau (Damian Lau), who is unaware of her secret superheroic identity, is almost killed.

In the finale, the three women decide to save the kidnapped babies and go after Evil Master at the same time. And after a fierce battle during which they have to blow up his underground lair, they even seem to succeed on both accounts - when Evil Master's skeleton rises from the flames the girls have left behind to possess the body of Invisible Woman to fight and kill the others, and it's only when Invisible Woman makes the skeleton's brain explode by overloading it with very intensive anad emotional thoughts that the Evil Master is finally destroyed for good.

 

One of the most entertaining movies ever, Heroic Trio is probably director Johnnie To's first in a long line of masterpieces. And while it might not be quite as intellectually stimulating as some of his later movies, Heroic Trio already shows its director's predeliction for playing with genre conventions and turning them onto their heads in the process, and this time, the genre of choice is comicbook superheroes - and without being based on any one comicbook as such, To gets everything right: The film is full of expertly staged action setpieces, it is brilliantly paced, full of iconic and easily to understand images (often resembling comicbook panels), is based on an intentionally simplistic and yet hilariously complex story, neglects the laws of nature should the story demand so, is drenched in rich primary colours, and is played tongue-in-cheek. Add to this great and moody sets, a great cast (especially Maggie Cheung turns in one of her funniest performances), and an incredibly stylish directorial effort and you have got one masterpiece, and a film that's lightyears ahead of all multi-million Dollar comicbook adaptations Hollywood has churned out to this very day!

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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