Written by Yiu-wai Chu.
Billed as the film to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong production company Milkyway Image, action film Three (2016) marks the return of director Johnnie To to his signature gangster movie after Drug War (2013), the first gangster film he shot entirely in Mainland China. The famous director and the company he co-founded in 1996 are walking a fine line between Mainland China and Hong Kong: For staunch supporters of To and Milkyway Image, his unexpected interim project, the stage-to-screen musical Office (2015), had just been another Mainland movie in order to “walk with two legs”: using commercial films such as rom-com Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (2011) to support the production company’s unique brand of “action thriller meets art-house cinema.” Two years earlier, his 50th film Drug War had seen mixed reviews in Hong Kong. I have argued elsewhere that this was due “the untranslatability of Milkyway-cum-Hong Kong flavour that distinguished To from other Hong Kong directors, who were assimilated into the Mainland market as a simple mélange.” Straddling their home turf and the highly profitable Mainland market, To and Milkyway Image may be emblematic of challenges faced by Hong Kong cinema more widely – and of ways to tackle them. Continue reading “Johnnie To, Hong Kong cinema and the mainland”