Film Review: The Heroic Trio (1993, dir. Johnnie To)


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Jeez! It seems like it was just yesterday when I remembered that a Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman movie was coming out this month. Now Ryan already has his review of it up. Here I am sitting on this, the sequel called Executioners (1993), and way more Batman and Superman movies than I care to list left to review. With that in mind, I’d better get on it if I want to even finish by the end of the next month, or the month after that.

I have done several Superman movies and a Batman movie already. That Batman movie technically had Wonder Woman right near the end, but I wasn’t comfortable with that alone. Aside from the 1974 TV Movie, this movie, and it’s sequel, were the only ones that popped up as having a Wonder Woman in them. Even IMDb lists the character of Tung as Wonder Woman. She doesn’t exactly look or act like you would expect Wonder Woman to act. In fact, my subtitles call her Super Heroine and the version on Netflix calls her Shadow Fox. But the movie has Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, and Anita Mui playing superheroes in a reworking of The Terminator/Terminator 2/Lady Terminator. By The Terminator, I mean the 1984 version. I think we can be fairly certain that director Johnnie To was unaware this version of The Terminator existed.

The Terminator (1991, dir. Ben Hernandez)

The Terminator (1991, dir. Ben Hernandez)

It is also filled with references to everything from Silver Streak (1976) to Remo Williams (1985) to the Flying Guillotine movies. I can’t really bring myself to feel mislead that I was going to get a Chinese Wonder Woman. By the way, I apologize in advance for all the references I’m sure I have missed. But, I don’t apologize for not including screenshots of the two scenes that no one needs to see if they don’t watch the film themselves.

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The movie begins and we hear on the radio that 18 babies have been kidnapped in the last three months as a car pulls up at to an old house. This is when we meet Wonder Woman (Anita Mui), her husband Lau (Damian Lau), and the real estate agent. He takes them inside this dump that only really looks good from the outside. As he tries to sell it, he is also honest. You know, full disclosure and all that. He has to tell them that it is “structurally sound. It had a minor fire, that’s all.”

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992, dir. Richard Donner)

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992, dir. Richard Donner)

He quickly thinks that there’s no way he’s going to make a sale here. He even kicks at one of the pillars in the house causing it to fall down and a bird’s nest to land on his head.

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However, much to Chinese Leo Getz’s surprise, she wants the place anyways. But you know what’s even more of a surprise? The next scene that happens right after they say they will take the house. I’ll explain it, show it, then give you my theory as to why it exists.

Her husband spots a guy outside trying to hot wire their car. He grabs a vine from the roof of the house and dives out the window with it like he’s Tarzan. After landing, he proceeds to use it to lasso the thief and yank him out of the car. He then hands the guy hand cuffs telling him to cuff himself, which he does. It then cuts to Wonder Woman and the real estate agent. He says, “He’s so cool,” to which she responds, “Of course, my hubby is a cop.” Here’s what it looks like.

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No, it’s never brought up again. It’s as if the film just wanted you to know that Hong Kong cops can do that. Believe it or not, I have seen an otherwise unexplainable scene such as this somewhere else before. If memory serves, the movie is actually a favorite of Lisa’s. I haven’t seen it myself, but I have seen The Cinema Snob review of it. It’s a movie called Pieces (1982). There’s a scene where a girl on a college campus is walking around at night when out of nowhere a Chinese guy tries attacking her with martial arts before passing out next to her. A guy comes up to say it’s his Kung Fu professor. The Chinese guy gets up, apologizes saying he had some bad chop suey, and then walks off.

Pieces (1982 dir. Juan Piquer Simón)

Pieces (1982 dir. Juan Piquer Simón)


Pieces (1982 dir. Juan Piquer Simón)

Pieces (1982 dir. Juan Piquer Simón)


Pieces (1982 dir. Juan Piquer Simón)

Pieces (1982 dir. Juan Piquer Simón)


Pieces (1982 dir. Juan Piquer Simón)

Pieces (1982 dir. Juan Piquer Simón)

The reason for it is that the producer of the movie Dick Randall also produced Bruceploitation movies. To give a little advertising for those films he had one of the Bruceploitation actors do that random scene. I figure there must be a similar explanation for why Damian Lau does this bit. It’s my best guess.

Next we cut to the police station where the Invisible Woman (Michelle Yeoh) is screwing with the cops.

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We find out that all the babies that have been kidnapped are male babies. She leaves a threatening notice for the Commissioner that it will be his baby that is going to be kidnapped next. Now the movie cuts to a hospital.

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This set is so 1993 that I thought the Super Mario Bros. might show up at any time.

Super Mario Bros. (1993, dir. Annabel Jankel & Rocky Morton)

Super Mario Bros. (1993, dir. Annabel Jankel & Rocky Morton)

After some talking, a lady asks why they can’t just call in Wonder Woman. That’s when the Invisible Woman tries to snatch two more babies. Well, not really. She picks them up and throws them out a window. These are special babies though because they take forever to fall to the ground. They take long enough for the guy in the window and a woman on the ground to have a conversation about which one to catch. Also, long enough for Wonder Woman to show up running across power lines to make her dramatic entrance.

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She throws her equivalent of batarangs to pin the two babies to the wall, which are apparently still near the top of the building after all this has happened. Also, apparently the two batarangs come straight down on the babies, are then are shown in Wonder Woman’s hand, then come in horizontally to pin the babies to the wall. You know, something tells me this film isn’t very realistic and might have been rushed into production.

Wonder Woman spots some blood on the wall where the babies are and throws her batarangs at them thinking someone might be there. It obviously hits the Invisible Woman. Why it hits the wall yet still causes her to bleed is anyone’s guess. Maybe they just grazed her. Regardless, one of the babies flies off the wall while the other is taken away by the Invisible Woman. Wonder Woman then leaps into action and catches the baby with some rope who is still exerting its magic ability to defy the laws of gravity. She catches the baby with rope and yanks it towards her like her husband Tarzan Lau from the beginning. Maybe that scene was to tell us she learned that trick from her husband. I doubt it though cause the rest of the film will make it very clear to the viewer that he is just a regular cop while she is the superhero. Doesn’t matter. She tells her husband to have the blood on the wall looked into.

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He doesn’t know it’s his wife because he has clearly contracted Lois Lane syndrome. She then calls her husband to tell him she will be late.

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Now we cut to the Invisible Woman in a car with the baby she has kidnapped. Like all the movie’s I’ve been watching lately, we need to pull out the “of course” for this scene. Of course she heads for a random manhole and kicks it up with her foot. Of course after climbing down to the sewers they turn out to be the set for the bad guys. Of course she runs into this movie’s Arnold Terminator…

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who proceeds to fight her, get his finger cutoff, and then eats it. Cause of course he does. Now we meet Robert Patrick Terminator crossed with Lady Terminator who is also on loan from the 70’s. I’ll just call him the Evil Kung Fu 1000.

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He keeps saying that “China must have an emperor.” Funny that Maggie Cheung would go on to be in the film Hero (2002), which many consider to be Chinese government propaganda that said it was okay to slaughter a bunch of people if it meant unifying China. Those babies will not die in this movie. Maggie does kill a bunch of small children though who are down there rather than allowing them to become servants to this king of sorts. At the end of the movie, the babies will be found alive. Little side note, if you have only seen Hero, then watching The Emperor and The Assassin (1998) is essential. It’s a much better and realistic film about the same story.

Oh, and you see the children die. She throws dynamite into the group of them that are in chains. You can see the looks on their faces. You can see one of them fly in the air. You also see at least one of them piss themselves as they are dying. When it comes to this part, the movie doesn’t play any games like it does with the rest of the film. Remember, this film came out the same year as Farewell, My Concubine (1993) and The Blue Kite (1993), which certainly had the Chinese government’s panties in a twist. At this time Chinese studios were also entirely cutoff from government funding. I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnnie tried to cloak a message here with superheroes and such. Another little side note. If you watch this movie on Netflix, then that scene is edited out of the movie. The kids still die, but it’s implicit, offscreen, and you really don’t know it happened because you only saw the babies and they are rescued in the end. The only hint at this is a very quick flashback to the children before being blown up that they didn’t edit out. But it’s so quick no one who didn’t know there was something missing would notice.

Anyways, the movie now goes into a flashback. We see a guy standing next to a little girl in white who will turn out to be the child version of Wonder Woman. He is pointing at a girl in red who is the child version of the Invisible Woman telling her she has to climb up this rope hanging over a cliff all by herself.

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She doesn’t make it up the cliff. How she survived the fall…I don’t know. I’m just going to assume that Michelle Yeoh is such a badass that she has the same powers as Michael Des Barres who survived this.

MacGyver

MacGyver


MacGyver

MacGyver

That was a nightmare the Invisible Woman was having. This is where it gets a little weird. She wakes up in a bed that is on the other side of some glass separating her from the rest of the room. On the other side is a professor who is working on the invisibility suit. Apparently, it doesn’t work under direct sunlight.

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Not sure how this setup happened or exactly what she is doing for him in this situation. I do know that she is on that side of the glass because the other side isn’t safe health wise while he works on the suit. I also know that she is there because we will find out that she is meant to steal the suit permanently once it works perfectly.

Next Wonder Woman visits a fortune teller to try and figure out why all these babies are being kidnapped. The fortune teller tells her that they are destined to be emperors. That’s when a little girl falls out a window, they obviously didn’t count on people being able to pause the film with accuracy in 1993, I won’t post it, and Wonder Woman jumps out to save her.

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She also saves a cat that fell out of the window shortly after the little girl fell. I love that she looks around at the children in the windows as if to say keep it under your hat, but apparently the fortune teller she was sitting next to didn’t notice anything. She was probably meant to be blind, but there’s nothing in the scene to indicate that except her wearing sunglasses. Oh, and of course the child and the cat have the magic ability to fall at just the correct speed to be caught.

Back at the Wonder Woman estate, she is chopping vegetables and her husband is cutting a log. Wonder Woman has a flashback to a little girl kissing her and referring to her as an older sister, but it doesn’t make any sense. Good scene.

Downtown at Aota Chemicals a hostage situation is taking place. So of course the cops call in Cobra.

Cobra (1986, dir. George P. Cosmatos)

Cobra (1986, dir. George P. Cosmatos)

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I know Maggie Cheung’s character has an actual name in this movie, but I don’t care. I’m just going to refer to her as Cobra Cheung. She’s not a cop like Cobra, but does this kind of work freelance. However, she does just what Cobra would do in this situation. She straddles a barrel, lights the back of the sucker on fire, and flies into action.

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She dispatches some of them and launches the others out in barrels for the cops to arrest. Before leaving, she offers her services to the commissioner to get his son back for him if he pays her. If memory serves, in the Netflix version she just offers to get his son back for him. In the original she wants more money if she brings him back alive, and a lesser sum if she brings him in dead.

Next, something happens back at the hospital where a madman is going to kill all the babies. It seems like it was just a last minute script addition in order to get Wonder Woman and the Invisible Woman in the same room for a bit before Cobra Cheung snatches a baby. Even having watched this movie twice, I’m still not sure why she takes this baby from the hospital. I understand that Wonder Woman and the Invisible Woman are in the same room in their regular clothes so that we can see that the Invisible Woman isn’t all bad as she lets her hand get cut up to rescue the babies from being killed.

Next we get a fight scene between all three of the ladies while the baby is there. This movie likes to follow projectiles in the air.

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For those of you who grew up in the 90s…

you’re welcome.

Sadly, the baby falls during this fight and lands on a nail. Wonder Woman takes the baby back to the hospital, but it dies.

Now we get a flashback that seems to indicate that not only did red girl survive the fall earlier, but that she left leaving Wonder Woman to alone do whatever the harsh trainer guy wanted both of them to do in the first place. I’m not sure why they bothered with this origin story stuff. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I probably haven’t followed it correctly, and it it doesn’t add anything to the film except to tell us they had connections prior to the events of the film.

Next we get a scene between the Invisible Woman and Cobra Cheung that had me confused. All you need to know is that Cobra wants the babies dead rather than to be turned into something evil, and this happens.

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Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985, dir. Guy Hamilton)

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985, dir. Guy Hamilton)


Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985, dir. Guy Hamilton)

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985, dir. Guy Hamilton)

Now we see how the Invisible Woman came to work for the Evil Kung Fu 1000. No explanation of how she got there, but he tells her she is no longer called Ching Ching, but will be known as Third Chan. Then he hits her on the back of the head with a log.

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Yep! That’s a thing that happens.

Next we get a couple of scenes for character development. Who cares when we need to get to the all important Arnold Terminator eating birds scene.

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That’s another thing that happens.

Cobra Cheung goes down to check out what’s happening in the sewers. She throws a bunch of birds up to distract this guy so she can look around. All that really matters here is that Cobra Cheung now knows the babies are being held down there in bird cages, and Arnold Terminator is now sent to kill Wonder Woman.

Cobra Cheung now shows up at the police station to tell them she’s off the case of the kids by throwing gold onto the table the cops are sitting at which disappears when the camera cuts.

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Another good scene. Moving on now. As Cobra Cheung is leaving on her motorcycle, Wonder Woman throws the baby from American Sniper at her, which she catches.

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Now we need more action and references. That’s why Arnold Terminator has taken a train station hostage, destroyed the computer, and brought a flying guillotine with him.

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Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976, dir. Yu Wang)

Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976, dir. Yu Wang)

Wonder Woman and Cobra Cheung get to the train station, but not in time to do much except this.

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They drive the motorcycle into the wall, bounce off of it spinning, throw dynamite at Arnold, jump off, and the motorcycle is destroyed. That’s a thing that happens too. Then the train crashes into the station.

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Silver Streak (1976, dir. Arthur Hiller)

Silver Streak (1976, dir. Arthur Hiller)

That’s when Arnold tries to stop the train himself…

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but he forgot he was a Terminator ripoff and not Superman…

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987, dir. Sidney J. Furie)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987, dir. Sidney J. Furie)

so he is disposed of as far as that scene is concerned.

Now the movie gets on the fast track to its conclusion. Wonder Woman visits her husband in the hospital. He now knows her secret identity. Things get more desperate between the Invisible Woman and the professor because his research is killing him now. Then all three of them meet up on the set of every Kung Fu movie from the 70s.

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This scene only exists so they can fall over a cliff to recreate the flashback scene shown here.

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They decide to work together. Then without showing them climb up, it cuts to this…

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so that I can do this…

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, dir. Steven Spielberg)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, dir. Steven Spielberg)


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, dir. Steven Spielberg)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, dir. Steven Spielberg)

You might be wondering how her motorcycle is intact for this scene. No idea. You just have to roll with it.

Now the Arnold Terminator pays a visit to the professor to get the invisibility suit. He bends Cobra Cheung’s shotgun while they try to stop him.

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Then this reactor like thing that was in the professor’s lab gets punctured. The room turns red and everything. They cause him to fall in it. He has the professor’s notes on a tape when he goes in. He punches his hand out of thing holding the tape player. That’s the last we see of him. I’m guessing that’s a setup for the sequel.

Now they go to fight the Evil Kung Fu 1000. First though, we have to kill the kids.

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Ninth Chan is Arnold Terminator. Moving on because you don’t want to see it. The battle ensues before leaving the sewers to the set of Highlander II: The Quickening (1991).

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, dir. Russell Mulcahy)

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, dir. Russell Mulcahy)

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Considering the plot of the sequel to this movie, I’m sure Highlander II and its ilk were in the director’s mind while making this film.

They fight for awhile till Cobra Cheung is able to put a stick of dynamite into the Evil Kung Fu 1000’s robe.

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 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, dir. James Cameron)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, dir. James Cameron)

After going up in flames, the movie does exactly what you think it does.

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You can take your pick here.

 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, dir. James Cameron)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, dir. James Cameron)


The Terminator (1984, dir. James Cameron)

The Terminator (1984, dir. James Cameron)


Lady Terminator (1989, dir. H. Tjut Djalil)

Lady Terminator (1989, dir. H. Tjut Djalil)

The way the Evil Kung Fu 1000 looks like after emerging from the flames, I think the director probably had a combination of The Terminator and Lady Terminator in mind.

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In short order, he latches onto the Invisible Woman to make her fight for him.

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See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989, dir. Arthur Hiller)

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989, dir. Arthur Hiller)

Eventually they are able to break the Invisible Woman free, and the bad guy falls to his death to shatter on the concrete. Then they walk off into the distance.

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Well, there is one more short scene. We cut to Wonder Woman and her husband watching TV. This is when we find out that the husband has coined their name as The Heroic Trio and that the cops rescued the babies.

That’s The Heroic Trio. It has plenty of martial arts. It has plenty of mistakes. It doesn’t soft pedal things. It’s somewhat confusing. It’s a little insane. Overall, I would say I enjoyed it. If nothing else, it was fun to see all three of these famous Chinese actresses together onscreen. Especially since Anita Mui is no longer with us and Maggie Cheung appears to have stopped acting. They’ve all done better work, but I still recommend this enjoyable mess of a movie. I’m looking forward to watching the sequel.

Is “He Never Died” The Time Of Your Life?


Trash Film Guru

getmovieposter_he-never-died_1

Isn’t it nice when a movie that you really, desperately want to be good turns out to be even better than you were hoping for?  Of course it is, and if you can’t root for an independent, low-budget Canadian horror film starring Henry fucking Rollins as an immortal cannibalistic killer, well — you, sir (or ma’am) clearly have no heart whatsoever.

Still, just in case you require any further proof of the inherent awesomeness of writer/director Jason Krawczyk’s 2015 feature He Never Died, here’s a quick rundown of the plot particulars : Jack (Rollins) is, in addition to being the most deadpan protagonist this side of Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name,” perpetually bored — albeit by choice. His life is routine in the extreme, consisting mostly of eating at the same diner every day, watching TV, and playing bingo. We slowly come to learn that he’s limiting his…

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