Tri-Star



Reviewed by YTSL

Tsui Hark has been involved in the making of so many, often sterling quality, movies that it's somewhat understandable that some of them get mentioned less than others.  Still, it is rather notable that this 1996 Chinese New Year film that was directed by the individual who also has bequeathed to us such as "Shanghai Blues", "Peking Opera Blues", the "Once Upon a Time in China"s and the "Swordsman" trilogy is one of those which seems to have been deliberately (or not) swept under the metaphorical rug.  This particularly since it was the last Hong Kong production the talented auteur worked on before he went off to try his luck in Hollywood (unfortunately, for him, without much success).

Leslie Cheung, Moses Chan and Anita Yuen
On the surface, this is one Film Workshop and Cinema City effort that looked to offer so much, especially in terms of novelty.  As David Bordwell suggested in his "Planet Hong Kong" book:  "Popular filmmaking constantly remakes its star from project to project...Give your star a new hairstyle or wardrobe or role, shoot some publicity photos, and your audience may get curious....Part of the pleasure of a new film lies in the new look it assigns a favorite actor" (2000:158).  Imagine the significant amount of interest TRI-STAR surely stirred up by having:  Leslie Cheung appear as a do-good as well as handsome Catholic priest whose psychology-obsessed cousin (a libidinous-acting Catherine Hung is nearly unrecognizable here from "Wing Chun"'s Charmy) is trying to sexually tempt; Anita Yuen act as a debt-ridden club-girl who first encounters Leslie's character in a confessional; and Lau Ching Wan play a not particularly bright detective who is generally unkempt and possesses the kind of beard that seems to make him resemble Yu Rong Guang's "Iron Monkey" hero in his government official disguise!
Lau Ching-wan and Catherine Hung
IMHO, a very cute and angelic acting- and -looking Leslie Cheung outshines everyone else in a cast that also includes:  Sunny Chan (as Lau Ching Wan's ratty character's equally bumbling -- but much better outfitted -- partner); Shing Fui On (as a peroxide-haired priest); Raymond Wong (as a police superintendent whose role is largely to provide extra laughs in this film); Moses Chan (as the irresponsible boyfriend of Anita Yuen's too-apt-to-be inconsistent character); and Xiong Xin Xin (who also was TRI-STAR's action director).  Unfortunately, all of the actors and actresses are let down by the movie's unfocused script and equally disjointed editing (Tsui Hark seemed unable to decisively decide whether this work was supposed to primarily be a romance, comedy or drama which also included police and triad action.  Also, there really are portions of the film that got me wondering whether whole connecting sections had been accidentally excluded from being a part of the final product).
Leslie and Xiong Xin Xin
Too many segments and plot lines, which started off promisingly just, ended up petering out or abruptly ceased to be considered important to pursue in a not too logical or satisfactory fashion.  Quite a few of TRI-STAR's visual gags (including one which puts Leslie Cheung in an Elvis outfit and another which has Anita Yuen and her prostitute friends having vampire-like reaction to rays of morning sunlight) and other jokes seemed to have been placed where there were just to get instant -- but ultimately pointless -- laughs.  Certain of its characters' quirks (e.g., Lau Ching Wan's character's tendency to take off his shoes to scratch his itchy feet) never get explained.
Those who would be content to get a bit of humor and entertainment out of a movie may think that I am overly harsh in my criticism of an offering that did elicit some amused reactions from me.  It also is true that TRI-STAR can boast of having major star power and a rather well filmed car chase scene.  However, the fact remains that this (re)viewer expected more and better from the man who remains my favorite director; not least when he could call upon such stellar talents as Leslie Cheung and Anita Yuen (who were the stars of his much better "The Chinese Feast") along with Lau Ching Wan (someone who really ought to have merited a meatier role than the one he had in this production .

My rating for the film:  6.



DVD Information:

Distributed by Fitto Mobile Laser Distribution

The transfer is pretty bad -  muddy, a lack of sharpness and muted colors - truly mediocre.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks

The subtitles are burnt on Chinese and English

There is no menu - which of course means no extras and no chapters