The Heroic Trio (1993)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2005-08-25
“Heroic Trio” begins with an impossible stunt combined with an unbelievable coincidence and gets more fantastic from there. For me it was self recommending, featuring Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh and Anita Mui as three tough crime fighters who are afraid of nothing—or almost nothing. Throw in Yen Shi Kwan as an evil eunuch who plans to take over China by reestablishing the Empire and his all but indestructible minion with supernatural powers and a flying guillotine—the terrifying Kau, played with lip smacking glee by Anthony Wong. . The women fighting them have a razor edged chain that slices through fingers, a lot of guns, including Thief Catcher’s ever present pump shotgun and plenty of throwing weapons. The women are good, if not perfect, and extremely attractive. Kau is almost perfectly bad and extremely ugly. The eunuch kidnaps and tortures children, the Trio rescue them. The eunuch and Kau are always deadly serious about their plot; the women of the Trio know how to have a good time--especially Thief Catcher—while never losing sight of their mission. Two of them have time to take care of their husbands while fighting evil.

So our rooting interest is set from the very beginning.

The astonishingly transgressive treatment of the kidnapped children—at least from the point of view of someone steeped in Hollywood movies—is a real jolt. We have been conditioned to believe that one cannot show bad things happening to kids on screen—even if they do suffer everything will turn out for the best before the end credits role. One of the oddly refreshing aspects of Hong Kong cinema is that children are not put on a pedestal. In real life children die through accident, malice or just bad luck, so the depiction insane child abuse in “The Heroic Trio” is shocking but not horrifying. Although that they are put through such torture (eating human flesh, competing with each other to see who survives another day) in the service of such an insane plan makes its insanity even more stark.

Many reviews mention the darkness and haziness of many of the scenes. I was pleased to read this since I have been viewing it on a VCR tape and wondered if the lack of light was intentional. It does serve a few purposes, of course. It sets a continuing tone of the bleakness of urban life. It also allows easy doubling of the actresses and adds to the confusion when a fight is underway.

There are plenty of terrific scenes in “The Heroic Trio”. One of my favorites is when one of the girls (I don’t recall which) hurls a chain at Kau as if to chain-whip him. It seems almost too easy for someone of his great strength, speed and cunning—he simply grabs one end of the chain from mid-air. When he pulls it, though, to drag a Trio member toward him he discovers that the chain is full of razor sharp blades which cut off several of his fingers. Since Kau is a supernatural being (or at least semi-supernatural) this doesn’t slow him down much, but it is a great way to try to get the upper hand (if yuou will) on a bad guy.

The stars are all terrific. Maggie has an insouciant swagger when dealing with the mundane world—leaping her motorcycle into a hostage situation and taking out the criminal while the police are reduced to watching, for example. And she plays the tough as nails bounty hunter perfectly—first telling Anita Mui that she wants nothing to do with her crusade against Kau, a resolve that we know won’t last long. Her transformation after admitting that she was a part of the insanely skewed “family” that is trying to restore the Empire is both touching and believable.

Michelle Yeoh as Ching, the Invisible Woman has even farther to travel, since she is still part of the plot in the beginning—she does the attempted kidnapping from a hospital that kicks off the main action of the movie. She sees the error of her ways, a change of heart that isn’t sufficiently by the script, after a fight with Thief Catcher and Wonder Woman (Anita Miu) in a very dark warehouse. She is devoted to the dying Professor, her husband/lover/friend and makes the best possible use of his current invention, the cloak of invisibility.

One shouldn’t complain about holes in the plot of a movie that has almost no basis in reality but it should be at least internally consistent, which “The Heroic Trio” is not. But it is great fun to watch the extremely talented and beautiful ladies save the day.


Reviewer Score: 7