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TRIO (1997)


Park Chan-wook



Run time:

1h 42m

Black comedy, vengeful characters and wild rushes of violence, Trio is imperfect but Director Park's second film represents the cinematic birth of a master filmmaker

After watching Director Park’s debut feature, The Moon Is... The Sun’s Dream, you could have been forgiven for suspecting this was not a filmmaker destined for greatness. 

However, in Trio, sometimes called Threesome, the green shoots of absurdity and stylised ultraviolence start to sprout, and we see the future crafter of the Vengeance Trilogy begin to find his directorial feet. 

The description of the set-up alone feels suitability Park-like. As the title suggests, there are three main characters. Firstly, there is Han (Lee Geung-young) a suicidal saxophone player who had made several failed attempts on his own life.

Then there is Mun (Kim Min-jong), who is very low on intelligence and very high on rage and violence. Finally, completing the set is Maria (Jung Sun-Kyung), a single mother with aspirations of becoming a nun.  

When Han sees his wife having an affair, he decides to pair-up with Mun to rob a café, of all places. Then, when Maria is looking for her child which has been taken from her, she joins this dodgy duo to create a trio of desperate souls.  

That black sense of humour that we have come to expect from Director Park is very much on display here. For example, when Han discovers his wife in bed with another man he sets fire to the house, leaving the pair to rush onto the street naked.  

The ability to shock is also very much present. When Han and Mun rob the café, they stop for a polite conversation first before opening fire on the diners on the level below them.  

There are certainly some stylish shots throughout. In a public park the trio faces each other in a triangle formation and Park swings the camera from side to side as the character dialogue similarly shifts.  

There is another scene which is also quintessential Director Park. The threesome find themselves in a shoot-out and Maria fires at a man, blasting a bullet through his hand and the camera then dives through the hole in the man’s hand back to the trio looking up. This scene also has the dark comedic element of Park's work as Maria uses her baby strapped to her front as protection, while Han and Mun jump behind her.  

Despite these great elements, it is still a film rough around the edges. For a director that will establish themselves as the most stylish modern Korean filmmaker, it is unlikely he had the resources here to demonstrate much of those talents. As a result, the film feels almost amateurish at times and dated in its overall gloss. 

Considering just three years later Director Park would deliver the slick and stylish Joint Security Area (2000), you can see Trio as practice range for a litany of bullseye modern masterpieces to follow. For Park fans, it is an essential watch to understand his evolution.

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