A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon
Director: Tsui Hark
Stars: Chow Yun-Fat, Anita Mui, Tony Leung Chiu Wai
A prequel to the first two films; Chow returns as Mark Gor, who travels to war-torn Vietnam to bring his uncle and cousin (Leung) back to Hong Kong. While there, he runs afoul of a corrupt local general, and the beautiful gunrunner Kitty (Mui) comes to his aid -- and apparently teaches Mark that wearing sunglasses and a trenchcoat is cool. After saving his family, Mark must return to Vietnam to save Kitty, which (of course) leads to an all-out blood-spattered finale.
Tsui Hark (producer of the first two ABT films) and John Woo (director) has a falling out during the filming of ABT2. Woo took his idea for a prequel and made the excellent Bullet in the Head; Hark took the idea and made this slightly above-average movie. While the idea may look good on paper (hey, let's have Chow Yun-Fat come back in his most popular role and have him get cozy with one of the sexiest women in HK cinema), in excecution it really falls flat. Instead of relying on his own directorial style, Tsui instead decided to mimic Woo's, which results in one big mess of a film. Simply put, the romantic and the action elements just don't mesh, and even fans of the first two movies may get put off by the high level of melodrama in ABT3. That being said, the movie does have some high points; Mui does look good shooting off M-16s in the beginning shootout and the ending sequence is quite well done. It's just that there's so much fluff in the middle.
I think I (and other fans) would have enjoyed ABT3 a lot more if it explored the formative relationship between Mark and Ho, growing up together in the Triad, or even Mark and Ken, exploring how Ken became disenchanted with being a gangster. As such ABT3 comes off as somebody just trying to cash in on the popular character of Mark Gor -- which other people have done, but I expected more from Tsui Hark.
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