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東方三俠 (1993)
The Heroic Trio

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 02/21/2010

Spearheaded by late actress Anita Mui's powerful theme Johnnie To's futuristic political allegory "The Heroic Trio" makes for an entertaining midnight movie replete with exaggerated posturing, campy art direction, and cheesy special effects. Still, it's hard to swallow any other time of the day -- even with its optimistic appraisal of the Chinese people -- as a sound superhero flick.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 08/25/2005

“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

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 06/18/2005
Summary: Watch it for the actresses

The Heroic Trio combines the star power of three of Hong Kong's most popular actresses in an action film that defined the genre for a period of time. With the help of Invisible Girl (Michelle Yeoh), a demonic eunuch is stealing babies in order to determine which will be the new emperor of China. Trying to thwart her plan is Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung) and the reigning superhero of the city, Wonder Woman (Anita Mui). When Thief Catcher finds out that Invisible Girl is actually a former classmate and friend, she convinces her turn against her demonic master and try to do good with her ability (which happens to be an invisible cloak produced by her ailing scientist boyfriend). Invisible Girl agrees and the three of them set off to defeat the demon and his main henchman, a brainwashed thug named No. 9.
The Heroic Trio is a fun movie, but its inplausibility tends to detract from the plot and overall story. All three leads are great and their chemistry is enjoyable to watch, especially Maggie Cheung’s constant banter. Although a distinctive Hong Kong style, the wire work and action scenes seem a little raw and unpolished, which is especially hard to understand given the quality of the actors and the high budget that was afforded this movie. A must for any fans of Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung or Anita Mui, but it may be tiresome for long-time fans of Hong Kong action films.


Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Wu'xiaBadger
Date: 01/16/2003
Summary: Full Beast, No exceptions!

I found this to be a rock-solid film, one of the movie's that got me totally rabid for HK cinema. Great acting, great action, great humor, great music. The plot is thin, but that is to be expected; anything more complicated would have slowed down the pace. Johnnie To is one of my favorite directors, and he is in his element with this comicbook-styled outing.It is a little dated in technique, but don't let that deter you.

One of To's strong points as a director is his willingness to show atrocious events. People have accused him of being "gross" and "gratuitous" as he depicts violence inflicted on women and children, but I found it to be a breath of fresh air. When was the last time you saw a child die in an action film? I'm not a sicko gore hound, but I love realism in movies, and To never shy's away from unpleasent stuff like the punkass US directors do. An adult superhero movie of the highest order, this film finely showcases three of HK's most talented and beautiful actresses. 8/10

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 03/09/2002
Summary: What Inner Strength said!!

Yeah i had high expectations too with everybody saying this is great, and i was left disapppointed. Nothing new or exciting here, just 3 big female stars kicking ass!!


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 02/25/2002

I first saw the Heroic Trio on a TNT special about 3 years ago (along with Bride With White Haair). I remember Michelle Yeoh (whom I did not know then) talking about how Eastern films have more solid action than Western films. Well, it couldn't have been better said. I had almost forgotten how good this film is. The visual is awesome (has that "year 2050" feel), even when compared to the top-notch stuff that come out today. The story is quite powerful, and the chemistry between the helpless, devoted Professor and his beloved Invincible Woman is most noticeble. The plot is not confusing, although you may wonder (like I did) how it was possible for Wonder Woman to wonder around without his husband knowing it. But the story is all in all coherent, and it works well in all aspects.

The level of violence is what really gets me. I hate Anthony Wong, and his role here is most disgusting. It almost ruined the movie for me. I mean, can I find a HK movie THAT DOESN'T HAVE HEAD BEING CUT OFF????

One thing that shines is the martial arts-oriented action, but that's exactly what I found unfulfilling. Grand as it may be, it is TOO martial arts-oriented. There is no doubt that Ching Siu Tung is the best swordplay choreographer around, but his ability is extremely limited: all his choregraphy look no different. I felt I was watching a period wuxia piece rather than a modern day fantasia. The same problem can be found in A Chinese Odyssey (which Ching choreographed too), where all the moves are in wuxia style, but the story is much closer to the fantasy genre. I personally find it unconvincing that People until this century were doing swordplay, suddenly stops for a century, and then whips out their swords again. But that's exactly what the choreography implies.

Note that Yen Yee Kwan (Iron Master Robe in OUATIC 1) is the demon here. They disguised him well; I hadn't the slightest idea it was him.


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: Nothing good

I had high expections of this, it was advertised as the 3 favorite HK actresses working together, but it's a load of rubbish.

Rating: 2/5

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: Buckeyez
Date: 06/08/2001
Summary: Gross and lacking

Growing up in the US and being fans of fantasy/kungfu films and longing to see a great comic book hero type film, Heroic Trio did not do it for me. Sure there were some scenes that were alittle interesting but that was all there was. There were some scenes that seemed low budget. The editing gets a zero rating for their work in erasing the wires that can be seen in the film. The demons looked disgusting and gross rather than scary or stunning. What holds interest are the stars of the film Michelle, Maggie and Anita. But overall this film did not hold enough interests and I would not watch it again.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Trigger
Date: 05/13/2001
Summary: Hyped up nothing...

I'm alone in thinking this film was bad I guess. I didn't like it much at all. I mean unless you are stimulated enough by the idea of getting to see Maggie Cheung, Anita Mui, and Michelle Yeoh - this film has little else to offer. There were a few scenes that made this film worth viewing, but the rest of it was either nauseatingly dull or else so poorly executed that it made me wish I was watching something else. The story left much to be desired and some of the wire work was pitiful. The ending had some great effects and clever ideas, but it's really a tough call whether the ending was cool enough to carry the rest of the film out of dullsville. I don't understand the love for this film... but then again I didn't much care for the first Chinese Ghost Story either. I didn't hate Heroic Trio, but there's just so many better HK films out there that this one doesn't deserve so much positive attention.

Seen on: DVD
Release: Tai Seng
Ratings: Movie - 2/5

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: e3s8
Date: 03/22/2001
Summary: One of the best fantasy films ever made!

After seeing this master-piece of comic-book cinema, one will never be able to sit through a lackluster Batman film again. Mui, Cheung and Yeoh light up every frame with their beauty, charm and chemistry. Like many, "The Heroic Trio" was the movie that hooked me on HK cinema. It's almost unfair to write it off as a sheer super-hero film, since there are so many different elements to the movie, both visually and plotwise. I think the phrase "industrial fantasy action-adventure" best suits this cult-classic.

Many who are new to the edginess of HK cinema, may be shocked and even put-off by two baby deaths in the film, but these unfortunate incidents add a grim credability to the baby-robbing plot and are vital to the the overall story. The lead protagonist, "Wonder Woman" (Anita Mui), is contemplating having a child at the beginning of the film (at least that's the impression which is given) and as she finds herself getting into the thick of things, her character appears to question her abilities to protect a child--if she chose to have one--in such a harsh world. None of this is ever said in the film's dialogue, but it leaks out of Wonder Woman's eyes during some of the more dramatic scenes. By the end of the film, however, she is convinced, through her and the other girls' heroics, that she can be a good mother and the movie concludes with a hopeful and triumphant look to the future.

Still, don't let all this serious talk discourage anyone: For the most part, "The Heroic Trio" is an energetic, witty and thrilling romp. The fact that the film contains a lot of emotion and humanity is only to its credit.

With a heart-pumping score, lots of eye-candy and an engaging surreality, "The Heroic Trio" is a must-see for lovers of "industrial fantasy action-adventure" films.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: SUPERCOP
Date: 12/27/1999
Summary: Terrific intro to HK Cinema.....

Future Milky Way Image filmmaker Johnnie To Kei-fung helmed this over-the-top comic book actioner which is a favorite of Hong Kong film fans around the globe. Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung, and Michelle Yeoh, 3 of Hong Kong's most popular actresses, star as a triple threat superhero team intent on taking down a powerful underground dictator who is notorious for kidnapping babies. With breakneck wire-fu courtesy of Ching Siu-tung and the inventiveness that is worthy of the phrase "only in Hong Kong", this is an action masterpiece that is a must for anyone remotely interested in Hong Kong cinema.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: leh
Date: 12/09/1999

But don't let that stop you - this is one of the best and most entertaining Hong Kong movies ever! Well made, with a good story, funny and inventive, and to top it off starring three of HK's most talented actresses, this is definitely one of those movies to look for if you want to know what HK movies "are all about".

Reviewed by: Brad.Daniels
Date: 12/09/1999

Three super-hero women similar to comic-book heroes. It hassome disturbing special effects (baby getting killed, flying guillotine, slave boys getting killed and peeing themselves, etc.), in case you prefer to avoid that kind of stuff.

Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

Perhaps the best of the outrageous, campy contemporary HK action fantasies (cf. "Savior of the Soul"). The glamorous and gutsy trio of Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung and Michelle Yeoh are just about perfect, as costumed super-heroes in a gloomy futuristic world. Visually stunning, great photography, and great special effects add to the enjoyment provided by the colorful characters. The "Terminator" inspired ending is just icing on the cake!

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

The heroic trio attempt to foil the plot of a baby snatching sorcerer to install an emperor (under his control) over modern China.

[Reviewed by Eric Yin]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Wonder Woman (Anita Mui) is a masked crusader who flies through the air and saves people with her martial arts; Chat the thief catcher (Maggie Cheung) wears skimpy black leather gear and worries about her looks (the least of her worries); and Invisible Girl (Michelle Yeoh) has been assigned by her powerful, evil master to gather twenty babies who will become the King and Princes in China's new era of domination. The girls fight each other along the way, but finally unite their powers to combat the evil master and destroy his brood. Epic melodramatic silliness gets in the way of the action, but what action there is great. Anthony Wong plays the evil master's powerful and sadistic lackey whose scene in a train station defies imagination.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 7