A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon (1989)

1 star out of 4. Dull, mindless, and a complete waste. Awful.

They really should have called this: Chow Yun-fat stands around and does little of nothing while finding a coat and pair of sunglasses. Catchy, right?

After butting heads on the second film, producer Tsui Hark and director John Woo parted ways  and abandoned plans for a prequel film…one that was supposed to have taken place in Vietnam. Woo had written a script but that was shelved and later became Bullet in the Head (1990), which is such a superior film to this travesty that it hurts. Badly.

Hark took over the directing reigns for this “prequel” film, where Mark Gor (Chow Yun-fat) must go into Vietnam in the midst of war to aid his relatives in getting to Hong Kong. Of course this involves him gaining some of the aspects of his character from the first film, but the film handles this so poorly that all we see is Mark get a pair of shades and a trench coat.

Mark and his cousin Mun encounter an alluring gun runner and both fall in love with her. This love triangle becomes further complicated when Kit falls for Mark who will not return her affections because Mun spoke first. Eventually, Mark gets his cousin and uncle back to Hong Kong and the love triangle become more complicated when Kit’s gangster boyfriend returns and begins trying to kill Mark and Mun.

Eventually everyone winds up back in Vietnam with guns. Some uninspired fights follow. The blessed credits finally come up.
This film is tepid. It’s dead throughout with even the action scenes coming off as low grade made-for-tv fodder. There is simply no reason to care for any of the characters because their cardboard structure. The plot is crap, the film looks like crap, and you feel disgusted with yourself after having sat through this pointless mess.

I don’t even want to go into detail after seeing Woo’s Bullet in the Head. These two films have virtually the same idea, but Woo’s film is about the loss of humanity and growth combined with a musing on the bonds of friendship. It is a film that never stops giving, whereas A Better Tomorrow III never stops milking the viewer for their reverence of the first film. That is if you have any left after ABT III ends.

Avoid this travesty if you liked the first film or the second. It just has no reason for being. The story is awful, the dialogue is dull, the characters are uninteresting, the locale doesn’t even seem like Vietnam and just who exactly read this and thought it would be a good idea?

EDITIONS: Essentially there’s just the IVL DVD from their boxset of the ABT trilogy. It looks clean enough, the video is 16:9 progressive NTSC, Cantonese mono, and the English subs are understandable. But I really wouldn’t recommend this disc unless you were already buying the boxset.

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Filed under 1 star, Chow Yun-fat, Film, Film Review, Hong Kong action

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