Working with the same set of actors, three of the best talents that Hong Kong cinema can offer deliver a story with the beginning, middle, and end directed by each of them in turn. Rather fittingly, the man with an overabundance of plans, Tsui Hark, starts the tale by throwing all the characters up in the air and setting up the situations that first Ringo Lam will develop, and finally Johnnie To will resolve. It's a daring concept but it features three directors who are at quite different points in their careers, and in the case of the former two, perhaps past their best work.
Hark's opening segment is frenetic as it introduces the three friends who plan to rob an ancient treasure. They are drawn into this caper by a strange figure in black who tempts them with gold, and soon they are caught up with one of the men's mad wife and her cop lover, some Triads, and a honest policeman who stumbles upon the plot by mistake.
Lam weaves more coherent and character based narrative out of Hark's energy, and he drives the action into a dramatic showdown in a underground building. Lam layers the one line motivations of Hark and creates more intriguing people to watch and to follow. Realism and violence takes over from uncontained energy, and a pleasing humour ends his segment with the three friends driving endlessly around a roundabout as a bike cop looks on puzzled.
The humour is further taken on by To's final act as the story takes in the habitual Lam Suet as a drugged up mechanic laying traps to get customers for his garage. He succeeds in drawing in the Triads, the cops and the friends and setting up one of the director's trademark climaxes. Soon the stolen treasure, the mobster money, a carrier bag of uppers and a fake parcel are being used for farcical exchanges and showdowns in the dark. To ensures that the film grows out of the genre roots grown by Ringo Lam, as the crime action gives way to unlikely deliverance and paulean conversions which leave the bad dead and the would be crooks honest.
Unsurprisingly as a single piece, Triangle is episodic and patchy. Hark has always had a knack for beginnings and in recent times less of a gift for coherence. His opening sets his fellow directors a real task in bringing the action back together and knitting sense back into the film, and the real joy of Triangle is when he gives way to Lam and To. Lam knows how to wring drama and passion out of any situation, and To is simply on another plane in his work currently.
If you can make allowance for the hyperactive and messy opening, Triangle becomes far more rewarding as you stay with it, with humour and warmth replacing the excessive machinations and stereotypes. Lam's feel for people and humanity in extremis is as strong as ever, and To will make you laugh and think as another genre set-up ascends into the domain of the spiritual. Triangle showcases the latter two director's ongoing abilities and Hark's ongoing erratic output, it works and you should give it a go.
Transfer and Sound
Well, this is not a bad A/V treatment at all. The transfer has been converted properly to PAL and the image is sharp with excellent contrast. Edges are fine and colours are well saturated if occasionally a little smeared (faces can look a bit uniformly pinkish). Presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this is one of the better recent Asian transfers on R2.
Two Cantonese tracks are provided and both are very cleanly mastered and recorded with no pops or hiss to speak of, as well as having distortion free reproduction. Atmospherics and ambience play a big part in the film and the 5.1 track manages good scene setting through the use of the subwoofer and the mixing of effects across all the speakers. There's a strong and accurate sense of depth to the audio and the mix avoids over fussy dialogue mixing, keeping voices at the front of the audio treatment. The optional English subs are concise and sensible.
Discs and Special Features
No film related extras and a surfeit of Asian film trailers including the recently reviewed Death Note and Tokyo Zombie. This dual layer disc is encoded for Region 2 only and about 75% used. The menus use stills from the film with soundtrack music and are very simple to use, the disc starts with the main feature.
So Triangle is not an object made up of equally good parts, it possesses two of good quality and a rather thin base from Hark. This release is a good presentation of a geometric collaboration which is more isosceles than equilateral, and if you find it cheap it's well worth a dip for the Lam and To contributions.