Heroines in hunt for a decent plot
THE HEROIC TRIO, with Anita Mui Yim-fong, Michelle Yeoh (Yeung Chi-king), Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, Damian Lau Chung-yan and James Pak Sek-chin. Directed by Johnny To Kei-fung and Ching Siu-tung. On Newport circuit.
IN A film industry noted for its blatant commercialism, The Heroic Trio stands out in the way it attempts to capitalise on current trends. This futuristic martial arts epic combines cartoonish fantasy with swashbuckling drama, two of the more popular genres in recent months.
Add to this package a stellar trio and Hongkong's top action choreographer (Ching Siu-tung) and, on the surface at least, the elements would seem to guarantee a smash hit.
The key words here are ''surface'' and ''package''. For the superficially attractive packaging barely conceals a story so feeble it makes the average comic book look as weighty as War and Peace.
Set at an undefined time in Hongkong's near future, the film recounts how three super heroines save the territory from an evil Ching Dynasty sorcerer intent on restoring China's imperial monarchy. ''China cannot be without an emperor,'' the 100-year-oldfiend (Yam Sai-kwoon) states.
Neither can a futuristic film be without an interesting vision of what that future may be. The sets are clever, with the colour scheme vaguely echoing a Batman-type palette.
But despite Hongkong's unique geographic and political situation, the film has amazingly little to say concerning the territory's fast-approaching date with destiny.
Instead, it is the same tired cliches that have already been seen in dozens of cartoon-like films, with fast action and flashy special effects substituting for a fascinating fantasy world.
The heroic trio are a muddled threesome. The film delineates their relationships in such a sketchy manner that one is never convinced the three could ever band together to fight anything, let alone save the world from monstrous evil.
Matters are not helped by trite dialogue, with the superwoman played by Anita Mui spouting one truism after another. ''You have to be able to face yourself!'' ''What's important is today, not the past!'' As in so many films directed by Johnny To, this one is loaded with mawkish sentimentality, overly cute children, and a pretentious musical score that overstates every dramatic moment.
It would be hard to come across three characters less in need of a sequel, but The Heroic Trio Part II is already on the drawing board. If it is anything like part one, it will take a real hero to sit through it.