Rounding out this year’s coverage of Fantasia is The Heroic Trio, an absolutely batshit, all-star action film that was a hit at the first edition of the festival. And it now brings things full circle by returning this year with a new print restored from the original camera negative.
As the film opens Hong Kong is in the midst of a most unusual crime wave. Eighteen babies have vanished from hospital maternity wards. The superheroine Wonder Woman (Anita Mui, Rumble in the Bronx, A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon) has been pursuing the kidnapper with no success until they go after the son of the city’s chief of police (Paul Chun, Shinjuku Incident, Teacher Without Chalk). She discovers that the perpetrator is Invisible Girl (Michelle Yeoh, Boss Level, True Legend). Meanwhile, Theif Catcher (Maggie Cheung, Hero, Twin Dragons) is trying to get the chief to hire her to find his son.
Since the film is called The Heroic Trio we know the three women will end up on the same side. And sure enough, it turns out that Invisible Girl is being blackmailed by the ancient eunuch Evil Master (Shi-Kwan Yen, Fearless Hyena 2, The Oily Maniac) and his enforcer Kau (Anthony Wong, Ip Man: The Final Fight, Hard Boiled). His plot has something to do with feeding the infants human flesh to create an army of superhuman killers like Kau. And to create a new emperor to rule China.
Written by Sandy Shaw (Supercop 2, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star) and directed by Johnnie To (A Hero Never Dies, Election, The Heroic Trio is even stranger than its plot makes it sound. With an opening scene that involves a house viewing by Wonder Woman in her day-to-day guise of Tung, wife of Inspector Lau (Damian Lau, Duel to the Death, Royal Tramp) that goes from slapstick to Tarzanesque action the viewer gets an idea of what to expect right from the start.
What they may not realize is that it also goes from outrageous stunts like a motorcycle being bounced off a wall and flown across a room to scenes of a child literally pissing itself as it dies to a finale that includes a bloodier version of one of The Terminator’s best-known scenes.
That kind of everything but the kitchen sink plotting and constant changes in tone is both The Heroic Trio’s best feature and biggest problem. The film is so off the wall and filled with outrageous moments that the film becomes an outrageous rollercoaster ride from one battle to the next. On the other hand, it frequently feels like isn’t any real plot and they just strung a series of scenes together and hoped audiences wouldn’t notice.
And to be fair the film frequently manages to keep you from noticing. Scenes like the throwdown at a train station that involves the previously mentioned flying motorcycle. It also has Kau decapitating people with a variation of the device from Master of the Flying Guillotine as a runaway train races towards the station.
The scenes between the inventor of the invisibility cloak (James Pax, Big Trouble in Little China, Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects) and Ching whom he doesn’t know is actually Invisible Girl are so sappy they slow the film to a crawl. But If you can keep your brain turned off and just enjoy the spectacular fights and action scenes the rest of The Heroic Trio should be a lot of fun.
Criterion will be releasing the restored print of The Heroic Trio as well as its postapocalyptic sequel Heroic Trio 2: Executioners sometime later this year. And while you wait, FilmTagger can suggest something similar to pass the time.