The much awaited Hong Kong movie Triangle has finally hit our shores. It's an interesting project, given that 3 HK directors - Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To - are combining forces to tell a story in the "exquisite corpse" style, where each one takes over from where the other left off, each injecting their own narrative style and spin to the characters and story. It's friendly one-upmanship between the directors in their bout to demonstrate their innovativeness, spontaneity and resourcefulness, but what comes through is clearly a mixed bag, expectedly so since you have three distinct creative inputs.
Does it come across as confusing? You bet, at least for the first third when Tsui creates the characters and the premise. I thought Tsui had tried to bite off more than he can chew. Then again, being the one off the starting blocks, he might be trying to provide as many possibilities and directions that the narrative can choose to adopt and examine in depth or drop altogether. And he doesn't get involved in the chewing anyway, as that's left to Ringo Lam to digest, and Johnnie To to wrap up. Tsui creates a trio who are hard pressed for cash. In Mok's (Chinese actor Sun Hong Lei) antique shop, Fai (Louis Koo) proposes to Sam (Simon Yam) about a heist, which requires them to utilize the latter's driving skills. A stranger appears and provides them an ancient coin, and a puzzle on a website which directs them to treasure (which includes lingerie!) underneath a government legislative building.
Simple enough? Yes, until we also get thrown many other subplots, some of which involves the original heist gone awry because of Sam's backing out, Sam's wife Ling (Kelly Lin) having an affair with corrupt cop Wen (Lam Ka Tung), Fai being under Wen's payroll and their plot within a plot in the original heist to bump Sam off, so that the adulterous couple can lead a new life, gangland members screwball involvment in the whole scheme of things, and the list goes on. Ideas get thrown into the mix and tossed about, and you can almost hear Tsui's cheeky snickering at how Lam and To will be able to sieve through the mess.
But fret not, I believe Lam had managed to, given that he closed most of the open threads and decided quite cleverly, to focus on the individual motivations involving a love "Triangle", and examined some of the characters in depth. This created a much needed and deserved pause for your brain to filter through the noise Tsui had caused, and made the narrative henceforth more manageable, and it did have some rather creative scenes of violence. Fans of Ringo Lam will have known of his earlier movie City On Fire, which Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs was widely acknowledged to be inspired from. And in Lam's third of the movie, he provides a throwback to Reservoir Dogs, coming full circle with a scene within a warehouse, a character in bondage, everyone else coming over for their piece of the action, with music played over a turntable.
So what's left of Johnnie To to do? He cleared the mess, literally. I thought he provided the best possible last arc for what had transpired over the last hour, with shades from the Election movie (the hunt for an artifact) and a very, very complicated setup to Exiled styled Mexican stand-offs, together with themes of brotherhood, loyalty and honour all summed up beautifully. And I thought he just had to throw in Lam Suet for comedic purposes to provide one last, but short, complication to up the ante that he too can make things complex! To does what To does best, and by the time the credits roll, you'll be pondering over what had transpired, and no doubt, I believe the talking point will be its ending.
All in all, Triangle proved to be an enjoyable ride. Just endure the messy start to get to the meat, before lasting the final sprint to the finishing line where you'll get that rewarding yarn. I'm not sure if the three directors will collaborate again, maybe they should, but this time to rearrange the order for a different film, and if they're at it, why not make it a trilogy to complete the loop so that everyone has a chance to begin, sustain, and close.