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The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell - Movie Poster
Original Title:
So duk 3: Yun joi tin ngai

Hong Kong 2023

Action, Thriller

Herman Yaubr>
Aarom Kwok
Lau Ching-wan
Louis Koo
Yang Caiyu
Gallen Lo
Tse Kwan-Ho
Alex Fong

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The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell

The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Suchat (Lau Ching-Wan) is a drug lord who imports products from the Golden Triangle on a large scale and is only interested in making money. However, one day the police have surrounded him and his men at the harbor, and Wing (Louis Koo), who is one of his closest confidants, turns out to be an undercover cop. During the ensuing shootout, Suchat manages to escape, while Billy (Aaron Kwok) is seriously wounded. Yet, Suchat manages to pick him up while fleeing. Billy once saved the drug lord's life and so, after some immediate medical care, Suchat brings him on a ship that takes him and his men to the Golden Triangle. In a village Billy is nursed back to health by Noon (Yang Caiyu), while Suchat is already making plans to gain the trust of Commander Dai Jinrong (Gallen Lo), who is locally in charge of drug production. After Billy is feeling fine again, he has completely different problems, though. He's in the middle of nowhere without a passport and he is actually an undercover cop too. He and Wing have known each other for a long time and only came to Suchat by chance because of various middlemen. Now, Billy is desperately trying to find a way to inform the Hong Kong police about the whereabouts of Suchat, as they are currently frantically searching for him. But in the meantime, he has to continue to engage in Suchat's dangerous game with Commander Dai.

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Review: At first, it was a mystery to me why "The White Storm" still gets sequels - until I remembered that there are simply no better movies coming from Hong Kong these days... Nevertheless, while director Benny Chan's first part was already rather mediocre, the second one in the series only disappointed even more. Since then, Herman Yau has been sitting in the director's chair. But you can't blame Yau, because Shock Wave 2 is just one example that proves that he is almost solely responsible for somehow keeping Hong Kong cinema alive. His movies are now moving more and more into the direction of blockbusters, but you can still notice that they carry the thumbprint of traditional HK action flicks. The latter also being one of the positive aspects about "The White Storm 3" - along with Lau Ching-Wan, who once again puts so much character into his role that he actually carries the movie all by himself. Next to that, there are unfortunately numerous shortcomings that spoil the fun.

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Because you can definitely have fun here. It starts with the fact that we are almost immediately introduced to the story via a gigantic shootout. We also get a lot of car body damage, as cars are constantly crashing into one another or flying through the air. Thanks to these practical effects, you can easily get over some of the less convincing CGI effects. The confrontation between gangsters and police also makes clear that everything is a bit more epic in scale here. It also doesn't hurt to keep this aspect in mind, because as the story unfolds, attention is constantly drawn to the fact that this is a mole story in which the survival of the undercover cop has top priority. Nonetheless, this part of the story is so hackneyed and implemented in such an uninspired way that it is better to focus on Suchat and his attempt to rebuild his empire after he lost everything.

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However, it's hard to focus on the positive side of the movie, because the story repeatedly jumps through time trying to bring the relationship between the two policemen closer to us. Not really successfully, though, especially since some of the flashbacks are repetitive and simply don't offer any added value. It would have been far more interesting if there had been more flashbacks in which we get to see Suchat's growing trust in the two undercover cops. Louis Koo, the only actor to appear in the entire film series (albeit all installments being unrelated), is the least spectacular in his role, especially since he gets the least amount of screen time. Aaron Kwok, being 57 years of age, on the other hand, not only still looks twenty years younger, but also manages to effectively convey his inner conflict between being a cop and Suchat's friend. Only a few scenes seem too melodramatic and as if they were thrown in afterwards.

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Nevertheless, the real driving force is Lau Ching-wan ("Detective vs. Sleuths") anyway. He may be the villain of the story, but despite the fact that Suchat is able to easily shed unnecessary ballast in his troupe, brotherhood - second to money, of course - means a lot to him. You even catch yourself rooting for him more than once. So, it's not really a surprise that he is able to gather so many people around him with his charisma, and that he even manages to confidently strike out a good deal for himself under the most adverse circumstances. Lau alone is reason enough to give "The White Storm 3" a chance. But the story is really just supposed to be the framework for some epic action. And that's what you get. There are plenty of shootouts, and we even get to see some RPGs. Taking place in the Golden Triangle, the movie also has a somewhat more original setting, but of course, it also reminds you a little bit of American movies from the 80s set in Vietnam.

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In addition to the mostly orange tinted color scheme, we also get several explosions in the finale as a village is reduced to rubble. Here you can clearly see that the movie's epic character was important to Herman Yau. Unfortunately, you can't help but notice that once again his work's potential was not fully tapped. There are stretches of time in which nothing really happens, even though the character developments are clearly supposed to have priority. Billy's friendship with Noon, which is always on the edge of turning into a love story, is one of those parts of the flick that could have given the story a special touch and always goes in the right direction, but ultimately it still lacks something. In the end, "The White Storm 3" also feels a bit drawn out because of the attempt at character development that didn't quite turn out as hoped. Therefore, the third installment also falls short of expectations, but manages to score points with its epic action, which unfortunately lacks a little bit of soul, though.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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