Zhao Wei

Three (2016, Johnnie To)

Three is about a dirty cop (Louis Koo), a determined doctor (Zhao Wei), and an injured criminal (Wallace Chung). It’s not real time, but its present action is probably seven hours–in an under ninety minute runtime–so it’s close. Zhao is supposed to be getting more and more tired because she refuses to go home from work. Koo’s getting fed up, Chung should be suffering effects from the bullet lodged in his skull. There should be a lot of tension.

And there isn’t. Even when the script goes out of its way to foreshadow tense sequences, it’s never tense. Director To puts so little time into the performances, it’s impossible to emphasize even superficially with any of the cast. And it’s set in a hospital. There are sick people who should be likable. But To never puts anything into the characters. He’s all about this artificial sense of place. Three’s hospital isn’t nitty gritty or pragmatic and functional. It’s often CG. The ultra wide-angle shots, where the actors all stand around and pretend to be intense, hint at some possibility, but To’s either checked out or just doing a bad job.

The script isn’t good. It goes on and on to get to the big events, whether it’s a shootout or Chung revealing himself to be a genius against Koo’s less and less competent cop. Making Koo corrupt–and his entire character motivation built around it–is one of the lamer aspects of the script. It turns Koo’s character into something of a dope and gives Koo, as an actor, almost nothing to do. Chung’s better because the part–manic, superviolent, supersmart criminal–is better. Chung’s character is the trope too, which is just another problem with the script. Writers Yau Nai-hoi, Lau Ho-leung, and Mak Tin-shu are terrible with the character stuff. They’re not much better planning out the reveals, but they’re worse with the character stuff.

Yet, To’s good enough at keeping it moving he’s able to move Three over the more glaring problems. Zhao’s unlikable evil doctor–she’s not just an uncaring woman doctor, she’s also an overambitious country girl–is reduced to this absurd, derisive point. The script gives her bad material and then makes it worse. She functions in the film as the scapegoat. And because she’s an ambitious woman it’s even worse.

Watching Three, especially in the third act, really felt like watching something from the early nineties. The slow motion action sequences–which all have something flipping over in the air–and the weak music choices (and score). It wastes a compelling hook–they’re all trapped in a hospital after all–but keeps promising it eventually won’t waste it. Then it does. Watching the movie, you see it run out of steam. Everything catches up and drags it down.

Cheng Siu-Keung’s photography is occasionally great, occasionally not. It’s usually competent and able to keep up with To when it seems like he’s building to some kind of visual pace. He never gets to one. David Richardson’s editing is mundane but competent.

It’s a rather depressing seventy-five minutes; fifteen in is about where it’s clear Three isn’t going to work out. But it’s not clear until the very end just how disappointing it’s going to turn out. And To still does do some interesting things–those wide shots, for example–but it doesn’t matter. The rest of his work is either disinterested or just bad. Three’s a stinker.



Directed by Johnnie To; written by Yau Nai-hoi, Lau Ho-leung, and Mak Tin-shu; director of photography, Cheng Siu-keung; edited by David Richardson; music by Xavier Jamaux; production designer, Cheung Siu-hong; produced by To and Yau; released by Media Asia Film.

Starring Zhao Wei (Dr. Tong), Louis Koo (Chief Inspector Ken), Wallace Chung (Shun), Lo Hoi-pang (Chung), Cheung Siu-fai (Dr. Fok), and Lam Suet (Fatty).

Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012, Wuershan)

Painted Skin: The Resurrection is an unpleasant experience, straddling the fence between stupid and bad. The script, from Ran Ping and Ran Jia-nan, is the weakest link. This magnificent, grandiose melodrama set in Ancient China only has a handful of characters in it. The side characters populating an elaborately constructed–physically and digitally–fall away to concentrate on the leads. While it makes some sense narratively, it makes Resurrection feel empty and fake; the script seems more geared towards cutscenes in a video game.

The CG doesn’t help the artificiality much either. Almost every shot–meaning ninety-eight percent, not sixty or some low figure–has some kind of CG in it. Suspiciously named director Wuershan composes–with his digital crutch–some lovely shots, unfortunately he can’t direct. The action scenes in Resurrection are atrocious, full of inexplicable slow motion. Then Wuershan carries over that slow motion to every sequence in the movie. Like the already boring movie needs to be artificially extended….

Resurrection is a pointless assault on the senses, with Ishida Katsunori’s lousy score an accomplice. It’s too much, every time–except when it comes to pixie cute demon, Mini Yang. The filmmakers inexplicably cheap out on her effects.

None of the acting is good, with lead Zhao Wei probably being the worst. She’s really, really bad. Her demon sidekick, Zhou Xun, is a little better. The object of their mutual affections–Kun Chen–gives the film’s “best” performance.

Resurrection‘s the pits from the opening titles.



Directed by Wuershan; written by Ran Ping and Ran Jia-nan; director of photography, Arthur Wong; edited by Xiao Yang; music by Ishida Katsunori; produced by Pang Hong, Wang Zhonglei and Chen Kuo-fu; released by Huayi Brothers Media.

Starring Chen Kun (Huo Xin), Zhao Wei (Princess Jing), Zhou Xun (Xiaowei), Mini Yang (Que’er), Feng Shaofeng (Pang Lang), Fei Xiang (The Witch Doctor of Tianlang), Chen Tingjia (The Queen of Tianlang) and Morgan Benoit (Wolf Slave of Tianlang).

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