Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, and Anita Mui in 1993's "The Heroic Trio."

The Heroic Trio June 11, 2018  


Johnnie To



Michelle Yeoh

Anita Mui

Maggie Cheung

Damian Lau

Anthony Wong


James Pak

Paul Chun









1 Hr., 23 Mins.

n The Heroic Trio (1993), a Johnnie To-directed Hong Kong actioner, three superheroines come together in the name of a crisis. A blanch, over-adorned archfiend, known simply as the “Evil Master” (Yen Shi-Kwan), has been kidnapping newborn babies who supposedly have royal blood coursing through their veins. He aims to both repopulate his crumbling empire and provide China with a new emperor. This, of course, won’t do. So the resolute Wonder Woman (who by day acts as a loyal housewife), sneaky Invisible Girl (who begins the film as the Evil Master’s morally conflicted right arm), and intransigent Thief Catcher (who’s nothing but proud of her bounty-hunting


capabilities) must put the kibosh on the man’s sinister, if generally vague, plans.


If all that sounds childishly simplistic or convoluted, it doesn’t much matter: Sense, or really any sort of cohesion, as we come to find out, are not The Heroic Trio’s strong suits. Something of a stylistic middle-ground between ‘60s and ‘90s Batman-centric entertainment and a narrative amalgamation of all the sci-fi-cum-cyberpunk kung fu thrillers to come before it, it is best enjoyed as an eye-catching series of impressively mounted stunts than a dextrous example of the conventional action romp comparable to the Police Story movies (1985-2013). Perhaps that’s what it was going for: Based on screenwriter Sandy Shaw’s penchant for writing one-liner-heavy dialogue and the film’s overarching goofiness (Cheung’s scrappy, almost comically reckless Thief Catcher is an embodiment of this), we’re partial to thinking we’re supposed to take a liking to The Heroic Trio as if it were a throwback to ‘70s action cinema.


But it, so loudly waggish and frustratingly on the nose, is so silly that it sometimes gives off the impression that it was sloppily made. For all intents and purposes, it wasn’t — the juvenilia of it all just undercuts the fantastical, slickly executed noir aesthetics often exhibited.


But complemented in the meantime are the action sequences: so garish are they that we couldn’t imagine them delivered with a straight face anyway. How often do you see other flying daggers slice a bullet in half, in slow motion, no less? And how often are we confronted by a foe so powerful that, after an explosion seems to kill him, our ragtag team of heroes have to battle his living skeleton? (OK, 1984’s The Terminator does make for another quasi-precedent.) 


It’s all fun, though kind of narratively feeble in the main. Native audiences took to it more positively: Just seven months later, a sequel, Executioners, was released, with To again at the helm and Yeoh, Cheung, and Mui reprising their roles. Whether that movie as proudly wears dopey, pulpy atmospherics is another story. But considering The Heroic Trio’s charms, maybe it’s one worth seeking. B-