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Overheard 3 - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Sit yan fung wan 3

Hong Kong 2014


Alan Mak
Felix Chong

Lau Ching-wan
Louis Koo
Daniel Wu
Zhou Xun
Michelle Ye
Kenneth Tsang
Huang Lei
Gordon Lam
Alex Fong
Dominic Lam
Ng Man-Tat
Huang Yi

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Overheard 3

Story: A law passed in 1972 allows male heirs to possess a certain size of land within the villages of Hong Kong's New Terrotories and build a house on it. The Luk clan, led by Uncle To (Kenneth Tsang), decides to build some high-rise buildings on their pieces of land with the help of Mainland-Chinese investor Wan (Huang Lei), pushing local building tycoons out of the picture. However, one of the clan members isn't willing to make his piece of land available for this plan. The decision is made to kill him and the task falls to Jau (Louis Koo), who causes a car accident and makes the murder look like driving under the influence. Five years later Jau is released from prison and tries to get back into business within the ranks of his brothers, led by Keung (Lau Ching-Wan). But he is in fact spying on the Luk Clan along with Yu (Michelle Ye), his former girlfriend and daughter of Uncle To, and surveillance specialist Joe (Daniel Wu). What reasons do Jau and Yu have to spy on the Luk Clan and how does Moon (Zhou Xun), who Joe constantly runs into, fit into the picture?

Review: There are trilogies that easily could have ended with the first installment. "Overheard" was a good thriller and "Overheard 2" could score with its focus on stock trading as well. But what exactly links these three movies, making them a trilogy? First of all, the answer is director buddies Alan Mak and Felix Chong ("Infernal Affairs") as well as the three lead actors. And next to that it's especially the surveillance gadgets which are actually just plot devices and bear no weigth on their own. So technically speaking this isn't exactly a trilogy since there are completely different protagonists introduced every time, this time making real estate the story's pivot leading to lots of betrayal and over-complicated family relationships. "Overheard 3" is needlessly convoluted concerning its individuals and their relationships with each other and would have been in strong need of simplification.

Overheard 3 - Film Screenshot 11

The story summary really has been broken down to the most necessary aspects. In fact, the story is so complicated that most of the time we are busy drawing a family tree while also writing the different relationships next to the arrows in that drawing. Of course, you just have to do so in your head. Additionally, you also have to try remembering who owes money to whom, has cheated someone of some real estate or a former lover, while at the same time wondering what kind of issue Jau and Yu have with the rest of the Luk clan. Sure, the clan is a bunch of despicable businessmen slash gangsters, but ultimately the two fall into the same category! Maybe they act the way they do because of their guilty conscience, we assume, but most of the time the viewer is left with the problem that there is not a single person to actually relate to.

Overheard 3 - Film Screenshot 12

We are at least desperately trying not to lose track of the individuals, who come at an extreme number. It probably would have made more sense to release "Overheard 3" as a trilogy, because the countless convoluted relationships are only one problem of the over-complicated story. Apart from that you also have to keep at it when it comes to the real estate business. Consequently, Mak's and Chong's thriller is very arduous. Moreover, the relationships between the characters are only slightly touched upon. Especially Yu and Jau have a strong connection because of their past, but since we don't get to see many scenes between them, the thriller misses out on capitalizing on that. Oftentimes, the directors don't seem to know themselves where to put their focus on, giving every aspect a more or less equal amount of time during the film's 131 minutes running time, even though Jau is most likely supposed to be the anchor in the story.

Instead Zhou Xun ("Painted Skin: The Resurrection", "Perhaps Love") steals the show from everyone else. Everything is so condensed in "Overheard 3" that no one, maybe apart from Lau Ching-Wan during one scene, manages to really convey emotions during the short amount of time they are given. Only Zhou Xun manages - almost out of nowhere - to pull off some tearful moments, making her scenes truely engaging and her relationship with Joe a subtle romantic story which was actually just supposed to be a small extra. Furthermore, she is the only one, or rather thanks to her Joe as well, who isn't crushed by the gears of greed for money and power. To get this straight: the acting efforts are appealing with the top cast involved, but there are only very few individuals you can relate to.

Overheard 3 - Film Screenshot 13

The development of the New Territories is a topic very much talked about these days. Many individuals and references will only be fully grasped by Hong Kong citizens, though. But Mak and Chong refrain from being judgemental with their thriller in any way, unless you regard Moon as the actual heroine of the movie, which is in fact possible, although her role is so small that this couldn't really have been the filmmakers' intention. In the end the real estate subject is only another plot device for many twists and betrayal at every corner. And the cameras and bugs, which considering the trilogy's title actually should have stood in the center of events, are merely plot devices within an epic family drama as well, a drama which introduces too many characters on too little room and soon gets way too complicated and most importantly pretty overloaded.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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