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HEROIC TRIO on DVD
The forerunners of CHARLIE'S ANGELS are available on import tape and disc.
By Craig D. Reid
November 07, 2000
Rather like THE MATRIX, this week's box office winner CHARLIE'S ANGELS is chock-full of farcical frenetic action that is nothing new to those familiar with Hong Kong's far-out Fant-Asia films of the '80s and early '90s. CHARLIE'S ANGELS is a sort of throwback to a set of classic action films directed by Hong Kong's Ching Siu Tung back in 1992, the extravagantly inventive HEROIC TRIO and its less twisted sequel THE EXECUTIONERS. In fact, some American reviewers of ANGELS have intelligently detected the parallel between these three films. Therefore, we thought it prudent to turn the clock back a bit and take a look at these HEROIC TRIO films.
HEROIC TRIO is a pseudo-futuristic thriller wherein canto-pop singing star Anita Mui (RUMBLE IN THE BRONX, ROUGE) plays Tung Tung (Wonder Woman), a masked sword-wielding, dart-throwing superhero who is first seen leaping across power lines attempting to foil yet another baby kidnapping by some invisible force that has been plaguing Hong Kong. Michelle Yeoh (TOMORROW NEVER DIES, SUPERCOP) play Ching San, who is forced by the evil Master Eunuch to kidnap babies and take them to his underground sewer kingdom, a feat she accomplishes while covered in a magical cloak of invisibility. Yeoh, who turns out to be Mui's long lost sister, is an expert of the bian
, a 9-sectioned steel whip with a knife-tipped end. One of the kidnapped babies will be chosen to be the next emperor of China while the remaining babies will be trained as superhuman assassins, who will guide the Master and the new Emperor towards world domination. And the third part of the trio, is Thief Catcher Yat (Maggie Cheung: GREEN SNAKE, ASHES OF TIME) a shotgun-toting, knife-throwing, bounty-hunting motorcycle grunge girl.
The trifectorate confrontations entail the flamboyant use of spinning frocks of destruction intertwined with vicious kicks, punches and darts. Hong Kong's self-proclaimed crazy man Anthony Wong (UNTOLD STORY) plays Kau, the Master Eunich's hard to kill chief assassin and guardian of the underworld. Ching cleverly pays homage to his old days at Shaw Brothers Studios by re-introducing the revered and feared beheading box so brilliantly featured in Ho Meng Hua's classic THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1976) as Kau's weapon of choice.
Compared to many of Ching's prior works at the time, TRIO is actually laced with less martial arts razzle-dazzle and focuses on other action elements, such as eye-popping wirework and special effects. The most memorable scenes are the final fight and the train station sequence, which combined Arthur Hiller's SILVER STREAK with motorcycle stunts even Evil Knieval could never have dreamed of. The film's sets and props suggest it was set in the 1940s, but the contemporary and sometimes futuristic influences offset this feeling. It is actually an interesting and enjoyable combination.
In the sequel THE EXECUTIONERS, where Yeoh, Mui and Cheung reprise their roles, the mood moves completely away from the supernatural elements and focuses on modern day problems. It is situated during a post nuclear war era, where the most valuable commodity in the world is water. The few remaining water reserves are horded by the evil mutant 'Black Knight,' who is somehow enamored with a peculiar figure who is using the world's problems to create a quasi-religious upheaval. Chat has become a fortune hunter who makes a living out of wheeling and dealing non-radioactive water, while constantly under attack from rival black market racketeers. Ching has become a mercenary selling her fighting abilities to the highest bidder, and Tung has retired from being a superhero to become a loyal wife and mother of one.
After her husband is assassinated during a military coup, Tung is put in jail, where she manages to survive by drinking the blood of rats. In a whirlwind of vengeance, she breaks out. Chat goes off to discover a new fresh water source, and Ching, after being saved by a surprise appearance of the now 'good' guy Kau, uses her skills to protect righteous government officials. In a wild and wooly ending in a church (the kind of ending THE SIXTH DAY should have had) our femme fatales unite to defeat the psychotic powers that be, bringing back the aesthetic and dynamic combative qualities inherent in the first film.
EXECUTIONERS was shot back-to-back with TRIO, using many of the same sets that were built at the studio known as 'The Coca Cola Factory.' Yet its more futuristic look invites a more complex yet pleasing set design filled with grandeur and ambition.
But the core of both of these films is Ching Siu Tung's marvelous mixture of action, fantasy and science fiction, which utilizes every opportunity to stun the audience with his warped sensibilities and surrealistic elements, creating a delicately balanced, visually palatable, artsy looking duo of films. This trio of seductive actresses (who do not in real life practice martial arts) literally defy the laws of gravity with the greatest of ease, while also defying the psyche of Hong Kong's male-dominated society where women are considered to be submissive, meal-preparing, child bearing sexual objects. With Ching Siu Tung's highly innovative fight choreography, Yeoh, Mui and Cheung play fearless, eccentric characters who are forces to be feared.
Both films are available from Tai Seng Video (1-888-668-8338) on DVD. The discs contain English, Mandarin and Cantonese languages as well as star profiles and theatrical trailers.