Heroic Trio Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

People flying through the air. Fantastic aerial battles. Fast and furious swordplay. Loosely-worn robes flapping in the breeze. Leaves gently blown about under the light of a full moon. The ancient conflicts of good vs. evil, the real world vs. the netherworld, and duty vs. honor. These are the elements of Hong Kong fantasy film, also referred to as Fant-Asia cinema. Director Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert ("Darkman", "The Quick & the Dead", the "Evil Dead" trilogy) are some of the most outspoken fans of this genre, and you can see the Fant-Asia influences in both the films and television series that they have overseen, particularly "Xena: Warrior Princess" (in fact, the pitch session for the "Xena" TV series involved a demo reel of four Hong Kong movies which showed the type of action sequences that Raimi and Tapert wanted to bring to television).

"Heroic Trio", from director Johnny To Kei-Fung ("A Chinese Ghost Story", another Fant-Asia classic) features three of the top actresses in the Hong Kong film industry. Anita Mui is a veteran of Hong Kong cinema, having appeared in a wide range of genre films, from action (such as Jackie Chan's "Rumble in the Bronx" and "Drunken Master II") to drama ("Rouge"). Mui is also an accomplished pop diva in the Hong Kong music scene, with an extensive collection of number one Canto-pop songs. Michelle Yeoh was Jackie Chan's sidekick in "Supercop", and will be the next Bond girl in "Tomorrow Never Dies", slated for release come Christmas 1997. Like Chan, Yeoh is trained in the martial arts and does her own stunts. Finally, Maggie Cheung (who played Jackie Chan's tour guide girlfriend in "Supercop", and recently played herself in "Irma Vep"), is a former Miss World contestant with numerous Best Actress awards under her belt.

In a Hong Kong that has a certain retro-futurist look to it (much similar to that of the first "Batman" movie), Police Commander Lau (Damian Lau) is mystified by a rash of baby kidnappings. Unbeknown to him, his wife Tung (Mui) is a masked superhero named 'Wonder Woman' (now there's some originality for ya!), and is attempting to uncover the diabolical scheme behind the kidnappings. We later learn that 'Invisible Girl' Ching (Yeoh), using an invisibility suit developed by a dying scientist that she is in love with, is responsible for the babysnatchings, fulfilling the bidding of her underworld master, who seeks a successor to his evil empire. Thrown into this mix is the lingerie-and-leather-clad bounty hunter Chat (Cheung), who rides a motorcycle and carries a shotgun, exacting vigilante justice in exchange for money. These three female superheroes must band together to rescue the babies and thwart the demoniacal plans of Ching's master.

As typical with Hong Kong action cinema, you'll see a number of pilfered ideas and action set pieces from other movies, including Tim Burton-inspired production design, a final showdown between good and evil à la "The Terminator", and some gunplay that would do John Woo proud. Though the story, dialogue, and acting leave much to be desired, this campy romp is most memorable for the exciting action sequences and surprisingly-stunning cinematography, bringing to mind other Hong Kong action cinema classics, such as Ronny Yu's "The Bride with White Hair" (and his more recent offering, "Warriors of Virtue"). However, keep in mind that HT is not suitable for all audiences, given some scenes with brutal violence, such as a demon (Anthony Wong, who has also appeared in the Hong Kong action classics of "Full Contact" and "Hard Boiled") that decapitates his victims.

Take "Heroic Trio" for what it is: a guilty pleasure. For those of you who enjoy Fant-Asia action or secretly watch "Xena: Warrior Princess" when no one's around, be sure to check it, and the sequel "Executioners", out. And if possible, try to get the subtitled version, instead of the atrociously-dubbed version that I rented-- at least when you watch it in the original Cantonese language, the dialogue has an air of respectability about it, given that it's in a foreign language.

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