|The Heroic Trio|
|Directed by||Johnnie To|
|Screenplay by||Sandy Shaw|
|Produced by||Ching Siu-tung|
|Edited by||Kam Wah|
|Music by||William Hu|
The Heroic Trio (Dung fong saam hap, TC: 東方三俠, pinyin: dōng fāng sān xiá) is a 1993 Hong Kong action film directed by Johnnie To, starring Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui, and Maggie Cheung as the titular trio. Other cast include Damian Lau, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Paul Chun, James Pak and Yan Yee Kwan. The main characters of the film are reunited in a sequel, another 1993 film, Executioners.
An invisible woman is kidnapping newborn babies who're destined to be emperors and delivering them to the mysterious, subterranean villain known only as the "Evil Master". The police are powerless and the only hope for the city is a motley trio of women who all share a terrible past, they are: Tung (played by Anita Mui), the mild-mannered wife of a police inspector who secretly fights crime as the sword-slinging, knife-throwing heroine, "Wonder Woman"; Chat (played by Maggie Cheung) a hard-boiled, shotgun-toting bounty hunter who goes by the nickname "Thief Catcher"; and Ching (played by Michelle Yeoh), the "Invisible Woman" who is the troubled but determined right hand of the Evil Master.
Cast and roles
- Michelle Yeoh – Ching/San/Invisible Woman
- Anita Mui – Tung/Wonder Woman
- Maggie Cheung – Chat/Thief Catcher
- Damian Lau – Inspector Lau
- Anthony Wong Chau-sang – Kau
- James Pak – Professor/Inventor
- Paul Chun – Chief of Police
- Yen Shi-Kwan – Evil Master
- Chen Zhuoxin
- Jiang Haowen
- Lee Siu-kei – Leader of robbers at chemical factory
- Pamela Franklin – Chief of Police's Wife
Wonder Woman is a crime fighting vigilante, trained from childhood by her strict martial arts master father. Her secret identity is Tung, wife of Police Inspector Lau, who eventually finds out who she really is. Aside from her incredible fighting prowess, Tung also utilizes a collapsible sword and numerous throwing knives shaped like butterfly wings. She is played by Anita Mui. Due to copyright reasons, her name was changed to "Shadow Fox" in the English Dub.
Ching (aka "Ching Ching") is the martial sister of Tung who ran away from their disciplinarian father when she was a child and taken in by Evil Master, becoming his main servant. She is also the childhood friend of the Thief Catcher, although they're only reunited as adults. Ching is responsible for the kidnapping of the babies using an invisible robe, which is given to her by the Professor. She is ordered to kill the Professor for the robe, but is conflicted because she has fallen in love with him, eventually deciding to fight in his memory after he dies. Ching is known to the Evil Master as "Number 3". She is the most skilled fighter of the trio, and uses a chain whip. She is portrayed by actress Michelle Yeoh in the film.
Thief Catcher is an irresponsible and greedy bounty hunter. She is initially hired by the Police Chief to rescue his own kidnapped son, stealing a baby from the hospital as bait for the kidnapper. In the ensuing struggle with Wonder Woman, the baby is accidentally killed, causing her to reevaluate her life. She grew up and underwent similar training with Ching as a child, though she escaped after three years (taking another ten in order to regain her humanity), being designated originally as "Number 7". She is referred to as "Mercy" (short for "Mercenary") in the English Dub. Often, she prefers to use her rifle and explosives in a fight, though she also has a boomerang-like sword and is an expert motorcyclist. She is played by Maggie Cheung.
The Evil Master
He is the main villain of the film. He compels Ching to steal newborn babies as part of his supernatural scheme to provide China with a new emperor. Ching has worked for him for many years. The Thief Catcher likes to refer to him as "Damned Old Monster!" as she strongly dislikes him. Played by Shi-Kwan Yen.
On its release, the film was promoted as a "ground-breaking novelty for Hong Kong cinema" Producer Ching Siu-Tung used the film to try to make a name for himself outside of his work with Tsui Hark while Johnnie To developed it as pitch to become accepted as one of Hong Kong's leading action film directors.
In contemporary reviews, Tony Rayns (Sight & Sound), stated that the film was visually similar to Kirk Wong's Health Warning, but "predictably takes none of that film's risks." He noted that both Mui and Cheung approached "their iconic roles with gusto and deliver the odd camp frisson, while "Yeoh seems dispirited from start to finish." Rayns complimented parts of the film, stating that it "offers a number of simple pleasures. Its design and mise en scene are expansive and occasionally exhilarating, and it has a good sense of intersperse scenes of would-be pathos between its action set-pieces." Variety called the film a "flashy kung fu superheroine adventure full of solid production values but marred by some disturbingly gratuitous plot elements." The review went on to note that the ambitious plot does "not always mesh with recurring comic-book tone. Full-blown climax has heroines battling their nemesis both above and below ground as the villain, as in "Terminator 2", continues to struggle even when reduced to skeletal remains."
From retrospective reviews, Donald C Willis described the film as "an amusing series of outrageous stunts" in his book Horror and Science Fiction Film IV. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an aggregated score of 80% based on 10 critic reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10.
- Rayns, Tony (1 March 1995). "Heroic Trio, The/Dongfang San Xia". Sight & Sound. Vol. 5, no. 3. British Film Institute. p. 56. ISSN 0037-4806.
- "The Heroic Trio BBFC Rating". BBFC. 1 January 2004. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
- Lombardi, Fred (2 January 1994). "The Heroic Trio". Variety. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
- Willis 1997, p. 230.
- "The Heroic Trio on Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 26 August 2022.