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The Heroic Trio (1993)

The Heroic Trio is a kung-fu superhero flick from Hong Kong that features three kick-ass, beautiful women as the titular trio. It was an early film from director Johnnie To, before he became the critically acclaimed master of crime films we know today. Future international superstar Michelle Yeoh plays the Invisible Girl, who is working for the mysterious supernatural villain. She is using an invisibility cloak to steal newborn babies for his nefarious plan. Pop singer and actress Anita Mui plays the wife of a police inspector on the case, but she is secretly trying to stop the abductions as local superhero Wonder Woman (not that one!). Future arthouse cinema star Maggie Cheung rounds out the trio as the bounty hunter/mercenary Thief Catcher, who is hired by the police chief to find his kidnapped baby. Secrets and character connections are revealed, babies are dangled from great heights, and there is lots of over the top wire-fu action. Eventually the women come together to save the day (not really a spoiler considering the film’s title).

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The plot is a bit over-stuffed and can get convoluted at times, but that’s bound to happen when your movie has superheroes, bounty hunters, evil rituals, science experiments, a tragic love story, multiple connected backstories, and a magical villainous eunuch. However, it is a fast paced and frenetic movie, so it never feels dragged down by all the intertwined character histories and motivations, and the real point is the over-the-top fight scenes and moments of pure melodrama. Its interesting how much of the movie is fairly family-friendly superhero/martial arts action, until the final fight involves some goopy, gory effects. It also frequently features infants in mortal danger, but like the movie Hard Boiled it is played both for laughs and tense drama. That tonal whiplash might be too much for some, but it was part of the charm for me.

Michelle Yeoh is always great of course, and Anita Mui is good, but Maggie Cheung stole the movie and my heart. I love Thief Catcher’s proto-steampunk style outfit, and her character is delightful.

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Thief Catcher has slightly less tragedy and melodrama going on than the other characters, and Cheung gets to give a lighter performance as a result. The scene where she shows up and enters a hostage situation in the most ridiculous way possible was when I realized how much fun the movie was going to be.

I feel like the only way to sum this delightful movie up is to borrow from the style of Joe Bob Briggs; This movie features kung-fu, gun-fu, wire-fu, barrel-fu, bike-fu, corpse-fu, swords, shurikens, shotguns, machine guns, a flying guillotine-type weapon, an invisible cloak, kid and kitten catching, horses outrunning a motorcycle, babies in peril, babes in cute outfits, and a climactic fight that feels like the bastard kung-fu baby of Terminator and Evil Dead.

There was a sequel released the same year called Executioners, which I have not seen but it is supposed to be darker in tone and post-apocalyptic. The Heroic Trio was also a major inspiration for McG’s 2000 movies version Charlie’s Angels, which was a very fun popcorn action flick (with a crappy sequel that should be ignored).

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