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The Heroic Trio (Johnny To) 1992



   Iím not really a big fan of camp Ė why take sporadic, unintentional humor when you could have intentional laughs Ė but there are times when one has to make an exception to any rule, and Johnny Toís cult classic The Heroic Trio is definitely one of those times. Cut from the Hong Kong action film mold, the film follows three super-powered heroines as they attempt to stop a mysterious baby thief. The plot is mostly an excuse to string together a series of over-the-top action sequences in which Ching (Michelle Yeoh), the Invisible Woman, Anita (Anita Mui), Wonder Woman, and Chat (Maggie Cheung), Thief Catcher, can demonstrate their kung-fu prowess. The action usually feels as if its been lifted from a comic book, but thatís hardly a bad thing here, since the movie has the same boundless physics and visual delights that one would expect in a superhero tale. The villains are appropriately megalomaniacal, and the plot twists suitably predictable. The delightful cartoon of a movie has a great deal of fun with its impossible chop-socky action and its excessive pyrotechnics. By HK standards, the fights are average, but by any other standard, theyíre exciting. Trio never takes itself too seriously, even if it is chock full of maudlin moments, so any dramatic failings are easy to overlook.


    One could espouse the virtues of the filmís excellent cinematography, or admire the editorial finesse on display, but in a genre exercise like this, the best moments come when the technical aspects of the film, no matter how well done, subside into the background. When the kidnapped babies are placed in peril, itís nearly impossible not to be caught up in the story. Focusing on the quality of the acting and stunt work feels secondary. Still, the performances are more than adequate here, with all three of the leading ladies giving impressive and distinct turns. Maggie Cheungís comic portrayal of Thief Catcher is my personal favorite. Watching her explosives-obsessed character as she straddles a powder keg and launches herself through a window while nonchalantly whistling is one of the genreís most hilarious action highlights. Most HK action films have a surprising amount of sentimentality, and perhaps that is why we donít question their zanier moments. By catering to extreme desires in the viewer, they find a happy medium. Thereís definitely a fair amount of this brand of extremism on display in The Heroic Trio, and as a result the film is an unforgettable, chaotic experience thatís decidedly unlike any domestic superhero movie. 

* * * 1/2 


Jeremy Heilman