The Heroic Trio (Dung fong saam hap, TC: 東方三俠, pinyin: dōng fāng sān xiá) is a 1993 Hong Kong action film directed by Johnnie To, starring Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, and Anita Mui as the titular trio. Other cast include Damian Lau, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Paul Chun, James Pak and Yan Yee Kwan. The main characters of the film are reunited in a sequel, another 1993 film, Executioners.
Michelle Yeoh - Ching/San/Invisible Girl
Anita Mui - Tung/Wonder Woman
Maggie Cheung - Chat/Thief Catcher
Damian Lau - Inspector Lau
Anthony Wong Chau-sang - Kau
James Pak - Professor/Inventor
Paul Chun - Chief of Police
Yen Shi-Kwan - Evil Master
Lee Siu-kei - Leader of robbers at chemical factory
Pamela Franklin - Chief of Police's Wife
An invisible woman is kidnapping newborn babies who are destined to be emperors and delivering them to the mysterious subterranean supernatural Evil Master. The police are powerless, and the city must be saved by three very different women who share a terrible past. Anita Mui plays the mild-mannered wife of a police inspector who's also the mask-wearing, sword-slinging and knife-throwing crime fighter, Wonder Woman. Maggie Cheung plays the shotgun-toting, hard-boiled bounty hunter, Thief Catcher. Michelle Yeoh is Invisible Girl, the troubled but determined strong right arm of the Evil Master.
Wonder Woman is a crime fighting vigilante, trained from childhood by her strict martial arts master father. Her secret identity is Tung, wife of Police Inspector Lau, who eventually finds out who she is. Aside from her fighting prowess, she uses a collapsible sword and throwing knives in the shape of butterfly wings. She is played by Anita Mui. She is referred to as Shadow Fox in the English dub.
Ching aka Ching Ching is the martial sister of Tung, and left their disciplinarian father as a child. She was then taken in by Evil Master, and serves as his main servant. Though the Thief Catcher is her childhood friend, the two are only reunited as adults. Ching is responsible for the kidnapping of the babies using an invisible robe, which is given to her by the Professor. She is ordered to kill the Professor for the robe, but is conflicted because she has fallen in love with him, eventually deciding to fight in his memory after he dies. Ching is known to the Evil Master as "Number 3". She is the most skilled fighter of the trio, and uses a chain whip. She is portrayed by actress Michelle Yeoh in the film.
Thief Catcher is an irresponsible and greedy bounty hunter. She is initially hired by the Police Chief to rescue his own kidnapped son, and she steals a baby from the hospital as bait for the kidnapper. In the ensuing struggle with Wonder Woman, the baby is accidentally killed, causing her to reevaluate her life. She grew up and underwent similar training with Ching as a child, though she escaped after 3 years (taking another 10 to regain her humanity); her designation was originally "Number 7". She is referred to as Mercy (short for Mercenary) in the English dub. Often, she prefers to use her rifle and explosives in a fight, though she also has a boomerang-like sword. She is also an expert motorcycle rider. She is played by Maggie Cheung.
He is the main villain of the film. He compels Ching to steal newborn babies as part of his supernatural scheme to provide China with a new emperor. Ching has worked for him for many years. The Thief Catcher likes to refer to him as "Damned Old Monster!" as she strongly dislikes him. Played by Shi-Kwan Yen.
On its release, the film was promoted as a "ground-breaking novelty for Hong Kong cinema" Producer Ching Siu-Tung used the film to try to make a name for himself outside of his work with Tsui Hark while Johnnie To developed it as pitch to become accepted as one of Hong Kong's leading action film directors.
In contemporary reviews, Tony Rayns (Sight & Sound), stated that the film was visually similar to Kirk Wong's Health Warning, but "predictably takes none of that film's risks." He noted that both Mui and Cheung approached "their iconic roles with gusto and deliver the odd camp frisson, while "Yeoh seems dispirited from start to finish." Rayns complimented parts of the film, stating that it "offers a number of simple pleasures. Its design and mise en scene are expansive and occasionally exhilarating, and it has a good sense of intersperse scenes of would-be pathos between its action set-pieces." Variety called the film a "flashy kung fu superheroine adventure full of solid production values but marred by some disturbingly gratuitous plot elements." The review went on to note that the ambitious plot does "not always mesh with recurring comic-book tone. Full-blown climax has heroines battling their nemesis both above and below ground as the villain, as in “Terminator 2,” continues to struggle even when reduced to skeletal remains."
From retrospective reviews, Donald C Willis described the film as "an amusing series of outrageous stunts" in his book Horror and Science Fiction Film IV.