I was stoked when I first heard of the concept for this film (although, for some reason, it's taken me years to actually see it). Uniting three of the finest Asian horror directors, "3 Extremes" is an anthology showcasing short films--each about 40 minutes in length. Well, there's good news and bad news. Overall, I quite enjoyed "3 Extremes" and would recommend it to any fans of the genre. But as with most things in the anthology format, different segments will appeal to different people. And, interestingly enough, the filmmaker I was eagerly anticipating presented the most mundane story and the one I was least familiar with provided the film's best moments.
The first segment is "Dumplings," courtesy of Hong Kong's Fruit Chan. Chan, whose work I am the least familiar with, provides the most wickedly entertaining story. Bai Ling (and who doesn't love Bai Ling?) plays an industrious entrepreneur who makes and markets special dumplings that help women regain their youth. Operating out of her apartment, the dumplings are prepared lovingly with.....let's just call it a special ingredient. I found the entire episode to be smart and grotesque--always a winning combination. I'd award this segment 5 stars.
Next up, the macabre and over-the-top entry from Korea's Park Chan-Wook is entitled "Cut." Chan-Wook has increased in popularity lately due to "Old Boy" and the "Vengeance" pictures, and "Cut" doesn't stray too far from that successful formula. A film director finds himself held captive by a disgruntled extra, and to survive he must prove that he is capable of evil. Elaborately staged (think something excessive from the "Saw" franchise), this segment is fascinating and theatrical. It lacks a little bite due to its artifice, but still manages to be great fun. A solid 4 star experience.
Last, we have "Box" from one of my favorites--Japan's Takashi Miike. As I alluded to earlier, this methodically paced segment was the least effective for me. Taking a cue from a traditional Japanese ghost story, a young woman is haunted by a family tragedy in her past. It's pretty standard fare mixing reality with dreams, but a nice ending helps the piece overall. Still, about 3 stars.
Check this out if you're a fan of this type of entertainment. I do wish that they had restructured the segments. If they had been placed in reverse order, the film's momentum would have built. Instead, by leading with the most intriguing segment, it did go somewhat downhill from there. KGHarris, 03/07.