Combustible Celluloid
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With: Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui, Damian Lau, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Paul Chu
Written by: Sandy Shaw, Susanne Chan
Directed by: Johnny To (with Ching Siu-Tung?)
MPAA Rating: R for violence
Language: Cantonese with English subtitles
Running Time: 88
Date: 02/12/1993

The Heroic Trio (1993)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I finally got to see this great female kung-fu movie, and it was better (and gorier) than I expected. Maggie Cheung is Thief Catcher, Michelle Yeoh is Invisible Woman and Anita Mui is Wonder Woman. All three stars are veterans of Jackie Chan movies and -- with the exception of Yeoh in Supercop: Police Story 3 -- I'd never before seen them performing action scenes.

The movie was co-directed by Ching Siu Tung (A Chinese Ghost Story, Swordsman), and we get more of the same kind of supernatural, spectral stunts and ethereal look, which is great. The other director is Johnny To, whom I've never heard of, and whom I can only assume is responsible for the gore, which I've never seen this extensively in a Ching Siu Tung movie. (Note: I regret having written the above many years ago. I have since learned that To is a great director in his own right, and may in fact have done a good majority of The Heroic Trio.)

The plot concerns an evil demon who kidnaps babies, looking for the next emperor of Hong Kong. (Another subtle jab at the impending Communist takeover?) There's an evil drone, called "number 9" who has a flying guillotine on a chain. Invisible Woman still works for the evil demon (she's only a number 3) and she's the one who actually steals the babies. The invisible robe she wears is toxic and it kills the scientist who invented it, whom Invisible Woman is in love with. She and her new partners turn on the demon and fight it, first in the underground netherworld, then on the surface, where it burns and turns into a Terminator-like skeleton.

That's only the basic plot outline. There's so much more to this clever, imaginative movie. It's great to see female action stars; these actresses are all talented, beautiful and skilled, and it's very un-self conscious. No one takes for granted that these women can't be heroes.

Tai Seng, the monster Hong Kong video company that owns most of Hong Kong's exports, has begun to release American video versions of their films, letterboxed and subtitled in English with good translations. (Not the usual fractured English that HK fans are used to.) The Heroic Trio is one of the first ones. Demand that your local video store carry it. There's also a sequel that's listed under both Executioners and Heroic Trio II. I'll let you know when I've found it.

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