No. 3 (1997)

Directed by
8/10 - stylishly filmed, clever, interesting, amusing
Reviewed by Simon on 2002-03-17

Korean Gangster film that appears to be quite excellent, if confusing. I'll probably have to watch it again to see if still appears excellent when I understand what's going on better :D

The movie loosely follows the life of "Gangster No. 3", who doesn't like to be called a "Gangster" and really hates to be called "No. 3". But there's lots of tangents and side stories so it's hard to really say that there's any one focus to the movie... it's got a very fractured structure (hence the confusion).

The movie is strikingly different from most HK Triad movies, and really shows 99% of them up with the intelligence and self-awareness of the script and direction. I guess I don't usually notice just how cliched and unrealistic HK scripts generally are until I see something like this that... well, isn't. Not that cliched and unrealistic is necessarily a bad thing, but you can see why many people are shunning HK movies in favour of Korean flicks these days.

There's quite a lot of subtle and dark humour throughout the movie, which doesn't glamorise any of the characters or their lifestyle... they all take themselves terribly seriously, but the movie likes to gently point out how absurd such posturing is.

I have to admit I struggled to keep track of which characters were allied to which others, and what the hell they all wanted. It didn't help that about half way through the movie the subtitles suddenly go from very good to absolutely nonsensical. I guess they ran the sub script past a native English speaker after translation by a Korean speaker, but after 50 minutes he had to go and catch a bus or something. I couldn't decide if the quality recovered somewhat towards the end, or it was just that dialogue got more sparse :D There's also quite a bit of written material on screen that goes untranslated throughout.

Overall I'd definitely recommend checking the movie out - it's very stylishly filmed, clever, interesting, amusing... just really hard to follow.

Crew

Director