Directed by Johnnie To
Criminal Shun enters the emergency room accompanied by the police after being shot in the head. With the bullet still lodged in his skull, neurosurgeon Dr Tong is adament that it must be removed within a few hours unless he will die. A defiant Shun refuses to give permission for the operation to take place and instead spouts riddles to the police at his bedside who are keen to find out who and where his accomplices are. Struggling with losing control over the life of a patient, especially when other operations have turned sour, Dr Tong is determined to convince the young man to have surgery but it seems he’s got more on his mind than fixing his physical injuries.
Asian thriller THREE is a strange animal. In one part it’s about a doctor who’s unable to come to terms that sometimes patients die and that their survival is sometimes the luck of the draw. When a patient is paralysed after she recommended surgery and a man becomes braindead when a brain aneurysm ruptures, which she is unable to cauterise, Dr Tong (Wei Zhao) needs to feel as though she’s in control, saving lives once again. Despite her superior informing her that things can’t always go to plan and that with their job they must anticipate the worst outcome, Tong refuses to accept this. The strain she puts on herself begins to show as she struggles through surgery to keep a lid on her emotions. Though ordered to rest, she sees a way to redeem herself when Shun (Wallace Chung) enters her ward.
Raced into the emergency room after a crime, Shun is seemingly on the brink of death, not that anyone would notice. A bullet in the brain might be cause for concern in the next few hours but his immediate concern is the police who are determined not to leave his side. His refusal of surgery winds Dr Tong up something rotten whilst the police seem keen not to let their criminal out of their sight, but what is it exactly that they want with him? How the police and Shun are connected develops over the course of the film whilst Dr Tong becomes stuck in the middle, not having a clue what’s going on but willing to do anything to persuade Shun to have the surgery he so desparately needs to survive. Sat in his bed, rhyming facts off in English, Shun looks every bit in control. He even has a bit of banter with the starving old guy in the bed next to him which provides some light humour. The hospital ward in itself is a bit of a laugh with one patient quite happy to lie in bed all day and have the nurses look after him whilst he surfs the internet (when his laptop hasn’t run out of juice, that is!). There’s also some sad moments too such as an older man awaiting surgery attempts to calm his worried wife down and seek her comfort before going in for his ill-fated op. The patients, though caricaturish in some ways, have a certain realism about them as I’ve witnessed how crazy some people can get after being stuck for days and weeks on a ward away from the outside world.
THREE is very much a talky thriller than an all-out action one. It does have some action scenes towards the latter end of the movie but they’re nothing to write home about, especially with the use of CGI, weird, faux slo-mo, which the actors seem to be doing in real time (think: dad run), and unrealistic stunts that just wouldn’t happen in reality. To be honest, it was quite the letdown and not what I expected. In many ways the thriller seemed an intelligent one, blending criminal actions with a mastermind who’s more clued up than the police could ever anticipate but by the end it became a bit of a joke. Whilst the various plot strands are resolved, it felt like a cop out, especially as the film seemed to be building up to something game-changing, at least in the context of the film.
Impressive performances from Chung and Zhao will keep you fixed to the screen early on in the film but unfortunately the narrative and visual screenplay eventually flatlines.