Hong Kong/South Korea/Thailand
he new Asian anthology movie "Three", in which 3
directors from 3 different countries craft individual tales unrelated to the
other 2, should have been called "One", and the only writer/director
who should have been invited to the party is Teddy Chan. Chan's "Going
Home", the last of the 3 stories, is the only one worth staying for.
There is no constant theme or narrative style to
"Three", although if you wanted to grasp for one, I suppose you could
say that writer/directors Ji Woon Kim, Thailand's Nonzee Nimibutr ("Nang
Nak"), and Hong Kong's Teddy Chan uses a "Tales from the
Crypt"-like ending to give their stories punch.
South Korea's Ji Woon Kim starts things off with
"Memories", a mystery that tries too hard to be scary, especially when
the situation and story doesn't call for it. Kim utilizes cheap scare tactics of
suddenly cranking up the soundtrack with a weird noise to make you jump, but it
doesn't always work. The beginning, as a man (Bo-seok Jeong) wakes up in an
empty apartment, enjoys a brief aura of mystery, but the segment soon flounders
badly under its own ambitions. It's simply not a strong enough story to last for
45 minutes. The "twist", such as it is, is easily guessed at by the
20-minute mark, and the ending completely undermines all that has come before
it, especially lengthy sequences involving the wife character.
The second segment is by Nonzee Nimibutr, who doesn't seem
to be up to the task of making another ghost story after his big budget "Nang
Nak". Nimibutr's contribution, "The Wheel", is a silly rehash
of a dozen "Tales from the Crypts" TV episodes involving
cursed/possessed dolls/inanimate object that terrorizes its owner. The segment,
about a cursed puppet that embodies the spirit of its dead owner, is laughable.
Worst, Nimibutr's tale, which is set in a rural Thai village, is visually
lacking. While Kim's story at least made up for the dull narrative with style,
Nimibutr doesn't even bother that much. "The Wheel", running at 40
minutes, is easily the weakest segment of the bunch.
The last segment, by Teddy Chan, proves the notion that all
good things come to those who waits. And if you had waited through 75 minutes of
uninteresting stuff, then stay for another 50 and enjoy Chan's "Going
Home", about a tough cop who moves into a rundown tenement building with
his son. The cop is played by long-time favorite, Eric Tsang ("Infernal
Affairs"), who is given probably the closest he's ever got to a leading
man role (at least that I know of). The building that Tsang is moving into is
scheduled to be torn down in a month's time, which means the only people who are
still there (Tsang and Leon Lai, as the only other tenant), have very good
reasons to stay.
The oddball screenplay features a stripped down version of
the Leon Lai ("Dream
of a Warrior") we're used to seeing. Lai bravely casts aside his pop
idol roots for a homely character devoid of all charm, but filled with
conviction. Although Lai's wife is dead, strangled by his own hands, he
continues to bathe and care for her, convinced that, with the proper Chinese
medicine, she will eventually wake up from her "death", which occurred
3 years earlier.
More oddball than scary, "Going Home" is easily
the movie's most powerful segment. Leon Lai is superb in the subtle role; we're
never sure if he's crazy or if he actually knows something Western medicine
don't. (The segment does reveal the answer by the end, so you won't be left
hanging.) Chan's direction is very disciplined, and while he does indulge in
cheap scare tactics in the beginning, he quickly abandons the technique for a
more matter-of-fact directing style. It works, and as a result "Going
Home" comes across as touching, weird, and eerie at the same time. Without
a doubt, Teddy Chan makes "Three" worthwhile.
The failures of the other two segments in "Three"
is nothing new. The Japanese anthology movie "Tales
of the Unusual" had the same problem -- not all the story segments were
worthy of being included. My advice to those wishing to take a chance with
"Three" would be to watch Ji Woon Kim's "Memories" with the
sound turned down and just enjoy the visuals; completely skip past Nonzee
Nimibutr's pitiful "The Wheel"; and enjoy every all-too-short minute
of Teddy Chan's "Going Home."