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|Index||13 reviews in total|
The much awaited Hong Kong movie Triangle has finally hit our shores.
It's an interesting project, given that 3 HK directors - Tsui Hark,
Ringo Lam and Johnnie To - are combining forces to tell a story in the
"exquisite corpse" style, where each one takes over from where the
other left off, each injecting their own narrative style and spin to
the characters and story. It's friendly one-upmanship between the
directors in their bout to demonstrate their innovativeness,
spontaneity and resourcefulness, but what comes through is clearly a
mixed bag, expectedly so since you have three distinct creative inputs.
Does it come across as confusing? You bet, at least for the first third when Tsui creates the characters and the premise. I thought Tsui had tried to bite off more than he can chew. Then again, being the one off the starting blocks, he might be trying to provide as many possibilities and directions that the narrative can choose to adopt and examine in depth or drop altogether. And he doesn't get involved in the chewing anyway, as that's left to Ringo Lam to digest, and Johnnie To to wrap up. Tsui creates a trio who are hard pressed for cash. In Mok's (Chinese actor Sun Hong Lei) antique shop, Fai (Louis Koo) proposes to Sam (Simon Yam) about a heist, which requires them to utilize the latter's driving skills. A stranger appears and provides them an ancient coin, and a puzzle on a website which directs them to treasure (which includes lingerie!) underneath a government legislative building.
Simple enough? Yes, until we also get thrown many other subplots, some of which involves the original heist gone awry because of Sam's backing out, Sam's wife Ling (Kelly Lin) having an affair with corrupt cop Wen (Lam Ka Tung), Fai being under Wen's payroll and their plot within a plot in the original heist to bump Sam off, so that the adulterous couple can lead a new life, gangland members screwball involvement in the whole scheme of things, and the list goes on. Ideas get thrown into the mix and tossed about, and you can almost hear Tsui's cheeky snickering at how Lam and To will be able to sieve through the mess.
But fret not, I believe Lam had managed to, given that he closed most of the open threads and decided quite cleverly, to focus on the individual motivations involving a love "Triangle", and examined some of the characters in depth. This created a much needed and deserved pause for your brain to filter through the noise Tsui had caused, and made the narrative henceforth more manageable, and it did have some rather creative scenes of violence. Fans of Ringo Lam will have known of his earlier movie City On Fire, which Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs was widely acknowledged to be inspired from. And in Lam's third of the movie, he provides a throwback to Reservoir Dogs, coming full circle with a scene within a warehouse, a character in bondage, everyone else coming over for their piece of the action, with music played over a turntable.
So what's left of Johnnie To to do? He cleared the mess, literally. I thought he provided the best possible last arc for what had transpired over the last hour, with shades from the Election movie (the hunt for an artifact) and a very, very complicated setup to Exiled styled Mexican stand-offs, together with themes of brotherhood, loyalty and honour all summed up beautifully. And I thought he just had to throw in Lam Suet for comedic purposes to provide one last, but short, complication to up the ante that he too can make things complex! To does what To does best, and by the time the credits roll, you'll be pondering over what had transpired, and no doubt, I believe the talking point will be its ending.
All in all, Triangle proved to be an enjoyable ride. Just endure the messy start to get to the meat, before lasting the final sprint to the finishing line where you'll get that rewarding yarn. I'm not sure if the three directors will collaborate again, maybe they should, but this time to rearrange the order for a different film, and if they're at it, why not make it a trilogy to complete the loop so that everyone has a chance to begin, sustain, and close.
Very good effort from the three directors. The story were made so
compact that the movie appeared too short to me. Because I am not a fan
for either of them, I could not really tell which part was made by
whom. However, the movie has kept quite a consistency in style, to me
it is already an achievement for the three.
Great layout of stages and clues were provided to the audience. Some particular points may looked chance-medley, but there were also inevitability alongside (e.g. the crazy guy kept shaking his head seems odd, but he is the man who gives convincing enough reason to bring the wanted police, the three ghouls and the police officer together.).
The blackout section was the most exciting and breath taking part of the movie. When all the forces came meet together with interaction and conflict of interests. Very dramatic and humorous, with a touch of personal loyalty for covering each other.
There were also many choices available to characters, obvious one was when the antiquary guy throwing the treasure in the reed bush, when he had kill-or-not-to-kill option the moment before. Another example is when all 4 of them got out of the bush and looked back to the surrounded cop, they kept looking till confirming the cop is really good at shooting, and passed the option on to him.
Overall, with the discussion of the human nature against survival, the movie made itself outstanding.
Fear not: the juicy premise of putting three masters of HK violent
cinema in one movie delivers one of the most entertaining action movies
The film is a palpable thrill-ride, with an air of unmistakable cool and sheer brassiness of style. With scarcely time to slow-down, the silly and initially confusing but heavily entertaining and ultimately straightforward plot runs through a hundred twists and turns on its way to the seat-gripping finale that is the last third of the film.
The three segments directed by Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnny To (apparently in that order, although it was not indicated in the film) are distinct in style and mannerism, but near-seamlessly integrated into a single experience. Not only did they use three directors, they also used multiple script-writers. Do not expect any section-markers here, though: it is not three stories, but one story told in three consecutively more elaborate segments which represent the vision and prowess of one director each - without, however, appearing needlessly patched-together or unfocused. So, to compare this to that other Asian 3-in-1 package, the excellent Three Extremes (with Takashi Miike, Fruit Chan and Park Chan-Wook), is to miss the point. Here we are dealing with a unitary experience, one not divisible by three.
Fans of each director will find much to comment on the stylistic differences between each section. Best known perhaps for his kung-fu productions (at least in the West), the multi-talented Tsui Hark delivers a cool, crafty ambiance in his piece. Ringo Lam, a long-line police action-drama director, likewise carries the torch with a surprisingly mellow and tactful show-of-hands. It is really the last segment of the film, under the steady hand of the miracle-worker Johnny To - the brilliant director of gems such as Election I & II and Exiled - that really puts this work in the category of must-see cinema. It would be impossible to describe just what makes the last act so good without giving something away, but suffice to say the success lies in its mixture of suspense, action and black humour in a dazzling tour-de-force. And yet, To's section makes sense only in the context of the whole; it would not be possible to appreciate the finale without going through the first and second acts. The third act is the charm, but only because the first two acts lead to it and suggest it with force and clarity. By its combination of three geniuses, the impeccable thrill of the film gets multiplied by three, making the end result something greater than the sum of its parts.
The actors are adequate and the chemistry between them works well. This is not an especially 'deep' thinking-man's movie by any stretch - character-development especially is among the real weaknesses of this movie - but for what it's worth, the characters deliver their lines and express their emotional range quite convincingly (with a few notable exceptions). The fraternal chemistry between the main characters saves much of the hapless script. But really, this film is about action, violence, crime, morality and love - the stuff of entertainment. Maybe not serious or tight enough for some, the over-the-top story proves highly entertaining as a backdrop for the stylish visual work emanating from the three great directors.
I'm willing to forgive this movie its obvious shortcomings: its unexplained plot-ends and side-tracks, its focus on action and shine over drama and substance, its use of three writers in the seemingly impossible task of writing a single storyline. Bottomline: It works! Sometimes heckling about details seems petty when what is iffy in ideation is saved in execution. Minor script is turned into a major movie.
Absolute entertainment, with a touch - or two, or three - of genius.
With all the negative reviews and opinions I had read about Triangle
before watching the film, I expected to be disappointed. Actually, I
was pleasantly surprised.
Triangle is by no means a masterpiece that lives up to any of the three directors' names, but it is certainly not the incoherent mess some people make it out to be. Tsui's first third establishes too many subplots, but I thought that even in Lam's third, I was able to follow everything. Sun Honglei really shines in the film, and it would be great seeing him in other Milkyway films. But what's most important is that despite the slightly confusing plot, Triangle always remains an entertaining movie - from the great car chases in Lam's segment to the typical Johnnie To shootouts in the final third, it always kept me on the edge of my seat. Great music has become a staple in Milkyway productions since the last few years, but Zerafa's score here shows strokes of brilliance, adding to the mythical tone established by Tsui in the first third. And that piece playing in the credits is beautiful!
I also really liked the ending, which in a way comments on the theme of "fate" which I thought was illustrated pretty well throughout the movie.
Sure, you perhaps need to be a huge, huge fan of at least one of the directors present here (To's style seems to be prevalent, even in the segments not directed by him) to appreciate this film, but I thought it was pretty great. Maybe people just need to be a bit more open-minded and not expect a masterpiece from three legendary directors who are just having a bit of fun - and contrary to what others said, I felt I was able to participate in that fun.
A novel idea, originating in Tsui Hark I believe, to make a film based
on the old game of incremental story-telling, passing the baton between
3 of Hong Kong's (once) top directors (they should have swapped Johnnie
To for John Woo and called it "The Victims of Jean-Claude Van-Damme
Rehabilitation Project"). The result is, sadly, almost as incoherent as
a nay-sayer might expect it to be.
The first third of the film (Tsui) is kind of scatter-shot, throwing ideas out there for the other directors to pick up on, centred around a heist movie setup with 3 main protagonists (Simon Yam, Louis Koo and Sun Hong-Lei) - setting up a triangle that clearly hints where he really wants the movie to go. This section does suffer from that amphetamine-high lack of focus that sometimes afflicts Tsui Hark when he has too many ideas for a movie, and can't decide which ones are really important.
Ringo Lam takes over just before 30 minutes in, and the mood shifts - he evidently wants to create a psychological horror instead of a crime movie, and shifts the focus more to the characters played by Kelly Lin and Gordon Lam. This part is eerie and oblique, a little surreal at times but much more focused.
Then Johnnie To comes in for the final act, and decides that the film should really be... a farce! Perhaps it's his way of commenting on the baby he has been left holding. Every character that's been introduced so far is brought back into play, along with a couple of new ones (notably Lam Suet), and the plot plays itself out in an elaborate comedy of errors hinged upon a series of entirely implausible coincidences. The finale is a gun battle vaguely reminiscent of those in THE MISSION or EXODUS, but with a more comical coating. It's a bit Shakespearean, but falls short of The Bard's wit.
The shifting of tones, and the diverting focus of the narrative, is exactly the sort of problem you'd expect a movie with three directors and three script-writing teams to have. Perhaps that was the point, and each director deliberately took the movie into their own favourite territory when they took the reins. I guess that's how it usually happens when people play the game amongst themselves (I forget the name of it, never really saw the appeal), but they perhaps failed to factor in that the game is more fun for the people playing it than for somebody who simply gets handed the end result. The production process may be interesting to talk or think about, but probably makes for a less enjoyable film than a more conventional collaboration would have.
I did enjoy Ringo Lam's section though - hopefully it's a sign he's going to be doing more work in Hong Kong again!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Finally i have seen Triangle. It has all the elements of a film noir (
dark lighting/unhappy couple/the femme fatale/double
crossing/unsympathetic characters) and so forth) plus the style of all
three directors. The first part is Tsui Hark's direction. There's
nothing really interesting in this part it's just the setup of the
story, but the fast/jump cuts and dialogues is obviously Tsui's style.
The second part, directed by Ringo Lam, reveals the sophisticated
emotions of the characters, the fun part is that Ringo Lam is pretty
much playing with the character's minds and also the audience's minds
and expectations. The final part is directed by Johnnie To. It has all
the elements of a Johnnie To action sequence: all the characters with
different intentions meet each other just like in PTU and they end up
killing each other.
Overall it has been a great experience to see all the three directors putting their own style in three different parts of the movie. But if you ask me who owns the movie I would say Johnnie To because since this movie is produced by his company and his production team, it has Johnnie To's style all over it. Tsui and Ringo are there for the ride. It's just like in Sin City where Tarantino directs a scene from the movie but overall the movie has Rodriguez's style all over it.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Triangle is the perfect title for this movie, to start off with the
best. Three main characters, three directors, a love triangle and three
evil guys, it had to be a title about "three".
But let's talk about the movie itself: It begins really confusing with several jumps in the action and countless plot parts that really tend to confuse the audience, not to mention that the movie is rather dark and it takes a good while to get through the "who is who and what do they have to do with each other?". Yet it gives an interesting introduction to a movie that was announced to be adventure, having only the first third really fitting to that genre. Especially Fai appears to be an unpredictable character being involved into a planned jewelry robbery with three bad guys, having contact to a corrupt cop dating a married woman (who happens to be the wife of another protagonist, actually the guy Fai tries to hire as driver for the coup), destroying the dishes of his mother's bar, yet trying his best to care for her and being a loyal friend. Then there is Lin, the cheating wife, that is completely nuts two thirds of the movie whilst having two guys absolutely crazy for her (including a fake baby, a planned murder and so on) just to be normal, maybe a little jazzed, and still loved by her husband at the end even though most of it came out. Not to mention a weird head-shaking tire seller and repairman that gives the movie a very predictable and almost awaited slapstick twist including his blue pills that he keeps eating, being the only thing he does throughout most of his appearance, yet magically repairing the car of the main protagonists...
And as I tend to get confusing in my review the movie just never got a clear straight plot line through it, not to mention illogical and unexplained plot twists, humor suddenly appearing in the last part (but not very funny either, probably due to the rather serious rest of the movie), the final shootout looking more like a cartoon than an action movie and the typical everlasting moment for a main decision that gets criticized in every single horror movie containing it, yet not mentioned (at least not negatively) here.
For a promising start and several good ideas as well as actors I rate a 6 of 10, even though the final impression of the movie got pretty much killed by the last third honestly.
The idea behind this film was to get three of the best Hong Kong
action/crime directors today working together. The result was each did
one segment (around 30 minutes each) in chronological order with Tsui
first, Lam second and To finishing it off. This would be done
differently than a film like Four Rooms (1995) where each segment was
basically a separate story. In this movie each director would continue
after the other to move the story and characters along from what
happened previously. Like many conceptual films this movie sometimes
seems a bit forced, sometimes clunky, some plot angles hang, disappear
and seem a bit confusing, but I still found the movie quite interesting
Triangle (the Chinese title is The Iron Triangle) starts off with Tsui Hark creating the foundation for the plot. It is both good and bad that Hark creates tons of plot angles for the movie to go. It gives the Ringo and later To plenty of room to move with, but also will leave either a bit too much to be either ignored and some angles barely gone over that a tighter script would have just ignored. In fact it took me a few tries to get past the beginning.
Simon Yam (PTU, Election) is Lee Bo Sam a former race driver who is friends with Fai (Louis Koo: Throwdown) and antique shop owner Mok Chung-yuan (Sun Hong Lei: Seven Swords). Fai is trying to get him to acquiesce to a driving job for a jewelry heist. If he does not Fai will receive harm from some local triad members. All three need money though. In the middle of the meeting between Fai and Lee a strange man gives those three a small gold piece and states where they can find the rest of this treasure. His motives for doing this are a mystery to the bunch. Meanwhile Lee's wife Lin (Kelly Lin: Sparrow) is having an affair with policeman Wen (Gordon Lam), states that her husband is trying to have her killed off and wants Lam to get rid of Sam first.
When Ringo Lam takes over in the first film he has directed since leaving the production of Wake of Death (2004), he ups the psychological attitude of the film and enriches the characterization. The most effective change is how the love-triangle relationship between Lam, Lin and Sam no longer appears to be the stereotypical triangle in the beginning and takes on a new bizarre dimension. Ringo Lam does a homage to Reservoir Dogs which was based on his film City on Fire so you see a homage to an homage) by using a record player, a handcuffed cop and a few other scenarios in this middle segment of the film.
The last segment belongs to Johnnie To and from the beginning where we see Lam Suet (Lam is in a lot of Johnnie To movies) we know who is directing this. Suet plays a drug addicted epileptic who causes flats in both automobiles and bikes and offers to fix them. The area where he is in has no cellular reception and a conveniently located eatery where they can wait while their vehicle is being fixed. However, Wen is there as well as the triad members who are there to purchase firearms. This is another use of the triangle in this film. To offers his normal use of "Team Spirit" themes and Mexican standoff action in this conflict triangle to make the last half hour quite interesting.
While this film never fully jells together, some plot changes are just a bit bizarre like Lin's character change (or really non-use) in the third segment, I still ended up really liking this film. There are quite enough brilliant moments that make this movie a recommendation for fans of not only Hong Kong cinema and Johnnie To, but movie fanatics as well. You just have to get past the first 15 minutes.
I have the Magnolia pictures R1 release that has two extra features: a "Making of" and a Behind the Scenes. The "Making of" is solely focused on Johnnie To's segment and ultimately not that interesting. It is mostly standing around, saying a few lines and more waiting. Behind the Scenes actually has the most information with interviews from several of the cast and crew. The region 3 release of this by Mega Star has deleted scenes, TV spots and trailers in addition to what the R1 has. I was most disappointed that the R1 does not have the deleted scenes, but it is still a worthwhile release.
For a movie that has been put together by three of the heavyweight
directors of Hong Kong cinema, you would expect nothing short of a
masterpiece to be the end result. However, that was not really the case
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that "Triangle" is a bad or boring movie, far from it actually. The storyline in the movie is good and well put together, although it just tended to drag on in long sequences. There are far better movies available from the Hong Kong cinema compared to this one.
Aside from the three directors, then "Triangle" does have some rather good and established Hong Kong actors to the cast list; Louis Koo and Simon Yam really did carry the movie quite nicely.
There is a lot of action in the movie, which works out quite well, however the last part of the movie that takes place in a small outdoors food vendor in the nature (I assume this is somewhere in the New Territories) tended to become a little too much, especially because there was some comedy and humor attended to throw into that scene, which just ended up making the scene worse.
"Triangle" is a solid enough movie with good performances, however, I had just initially expected something extraordinary to come from a collaboration between Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To.
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