A French chef swears revenge after a violent attack on his daughter's family in Hong Kong, during which her husband and her two children are murdered. To help him find the killers, he hires three local hit-men working for the mafia.
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
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A notable collaboration between three of the most iconic directors in Hong Kong, Triangle is a complex crime film from which one should expect the unexpected.
This is a not a Pulp Fiction (1994) or Three Extremes (2004) style anthology, but instead a single, linear story in which the baton is passed from one director to the next, a bit like The Signal (2007).
Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and current favourite Johnnie To each used their own scripts and production teams to create 30 minutes of this crime drama.
Tsui Hark's first act establishes the characters, handing over to Ringo Lam for an intense second act and it's therefore down to Johnnie To to wrap things up in the chaotic final act. These are directors who know how to use conventions, such as the mcguffin, the chase and gunfight, but delight in adding unexpected twists to subvert our expectations.
The result is a surprisingly natural film experience. Distinctive styles, such as Tsui Hark's intense visuals, may make the audience aware of who is in control but generally it's almost impossible to determine which director's work we are watching at any given time. Cinematographer Cheng Siu-Keung deserves credit for maintaining a beautifully atmospheric tone throughout, even during the many unusual moments.
As is appropriate for a film with three directors there are three lead characters. Simon Yam, Louis Koo and Sun Honglei play desperate men planning a robbery when a mystery man approaches leaves in their possession a piece of gold which sends them in a new direction, toward buried treasure.
It's the set-up for a conventional heist movie, the kind of film we have seen many times before, but in the hands of these skilled artists it becomes much more. The triangle of the title can be interpreted to mean one or several things. Meaning extends beyond simply referring to the collaboration between the trio of filmmakers.
It can be said to refer to the three-stages to this story and the journey the audience accompanies the characters on. The poster art presents the words "destiny" "jealousy" and "temptation" on each side of the shape, hinting at a philosophical construction. Triangle is an ambiguous film from which we can take from what we wish.
I was personally drawn to the "love triangle" interpretation. At the heart of the film is a woman, the wife of one of the criminals, who has been having an affair. For a notable three years. Awareness of the betrayal has a direct influence on the direction of the story and things become increasingly unpredictable. I'm being intentionally vague about whose wife she is and with whom the affair is taking place as there are so many wonderful nuances and surprises in the narrative that it would be a shame to spoil them.
Simon Yam, a serious actor with a surprising number of action films in his filmography including Wake of Death with Jean-Claude Van Damme, is a Johnnie To regular and it's his cold, emotionless performance which grips the audience most. From the moment he is introduced on screen we never know what to expect from him.
Louis Koo (with whom Yam and To worked on the Election films) is also good as a small-time criminal getting in over his head with some nasty characters. The only weak link is Sun Hong Lei as an antique store owner who aids them in their heist. Too often off-screen and unmemorable when he is on it.
Triangle is an intriguing piece of work. Those seeking a fast-paced thriller would be advised to look elsewhere, but if you enjoy slow- burning character studies then this will not disappoint.
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