Best Bad Movie Ever? Or Best Bad One? Either Way, ‘Three’ Is Pretty Awesome [review]

johnny to's three review
Written by Dennis D McDonald

How can a movie be this expected, this confused but still this good? The answer to that riddle is in the watching, says Dennis D. McDonald. Here’s how Johnny To’s ‘Three’ does it.

aNewDomaindennis d. mcdonald alien — We don’t see a lot of action movies that take place in a Hong Kong hospital ward.

Those that revolve around an intense but human neurosurgeon (Vicky Zhao) are even fewer and far between.

Johnny To’s Three (2016) leads with a convoluted, hackneyed ticking-clock plot. But this action flick somehow manages to make up for for its weaknesses with great performances, expertly detailed production values, and some crowd-pleasing action sequences.

Really. It’s an engaging action flick.

Here’s the story: A crook (Wallace Chung) wanders into Zhao’s ward one very bad day. He’s got a bullet lodged in his brain. He shot himself, as it turns out, while in the middle of a showdown with police, a showdown he thought he’d never win.

johnny to's three reviewAnd he isn’t alone. The cops who nabbed him are in tow.

This where the hackneyed ticking clock thing comes in. Turns out the bad guy’s partners in crime are coming to rescue him. Chung delays the complex brain surgery that Zhao says is critical to his survival.
The questions now are when and how the rescue party will get there, given that the crook’s under a 24 hour armed guard an all.

At this point, the movie morphs into a long setup for the action sequence we know is coming.

And it definitely does not disappoint.

As is the case with so many hospital films and TV shows, there is of course a collection of side characters who provide a decent dose of humor, coincidence and incidental drama.

They’re all well done, especially the nutty patient (Lo Hoi-pang), who occupies the next bed over from Chung. Lots of camera movement, super tight editing and nicely detailed sound work combine to overcome what might otherwise of been a claustrophobic set and a forced set up.

Because in the end, none of that matters. Three is definitely worth your time.<

For aNewDomain, I’m Dennis D. McDonald.

An earlier version of this movie review ran on Dennis D. McDonald’s DDMCD site. Read it here.