A Better Tomorrow III: Love & Death in Saigon (1989)


Introduction

A Better Tomorrow III: Love & Death in Saigon (Chinese: 英雄本色3-夕陽之歌) is a 1989 Hong Kong action drama film co-produced and directed by Tsui Hark.

It is a loosely based prequel to John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986) and A Better Tomorrow II (1987). Refer to Bullet in the Head (1990).

The film stars Chow Yun-fat, who reprises his role of Mark Gor from the first film, Tony Leung Ka-fai and Anita Mui. Set during the Vietnam War, it sets up the story of how Mark became the character he was in the original film. The second part of the title Love & Death in Saigon (夕陽之歌 or Song of the Setting Sun in Chinese) is also the title song for this movie, sung by Anita Mui, who was also the leading lady in this third instalment.

Also known as Ying hung boon sik III: Zik yeung ji gor (original title).

Outline

In 1974, during the final days of the Vietnam War, Mark Lee arrives in Saigon, intending to bring his uncle and cousin Michael Cheung Chi-mun back to Hong Kong with him. After arriving at the airport, Mark is confined by corrupt security guards who strip and attempt to rob him, but he is saved by Chow Ying-kit, who seems to have some measure of influence.

Mark and Michael later encounter Kit in a nightclub, where they discover the woman is a criminal and gun runner. Kit takes an interest in the cousins and invites them to accompany her on a deal with a local Vietnamese warlord. The deal goes bad, but the three escape. Kit is impressed with the way Mark and Michael handled themselves and helps them escape Vietnam, taking them under her wing.

Over the next few months, Kit trains the cousins in her business and marksmanship. Mark and Michael develop an attraction to her and Kit is attracted to Mark. Despite his feelings, Mark does not reciprocate Kit’s affections to avoid hurting Michael, who thinks Kit is in love with him.

Kit manages to secure safe passage for Mark, Michael, and Michael’s father back to Hong Kong. The three return and start a new business there.

The leader of the arms smuggling company (and Kit’s former lover), Sam Ho Cheung-ching, returns after a three-year absence when he was presumed dead. Jealous of Kit’s relationship with Mark and Michael, he plots to kill the cousins. Ho sends a bomb to the business, which kills Michael’s father. Ho and his men capture and beat Mark and Mun, warning them to stay away from Kit.

Kit expresses her regret for Michael’s father’s death and to share her feelings with Mark, which he reciprocates. Ho returns to Vietnam, taking Kit with him, to complete the deal with the Vietnamese warlord encountered earlier in the film.

Mark and Michael follow Ho back to Saigon, intending to kill him. Mark steps off the plane attired in his iconic outfit as seen in the first A Better Tomorrow: black duster, sunglasses, and matchstick in his mouth.

At an abandoned temple, where Kit meets Michael to give him two plane tickets to leave Saigon with Mark they are unexpectedly surrounded by Việt Cộng troops. They engage in a shootout with them. While trying to escape from them in a jeep driven by Pat, due to the bumpy ride, Michael falls off the jeep and gets caught in an explosion. Mark confronts Kit in her hotel concerning Michael’s assumed death accusing her of betrayal and keeping secrets from him. Then enraged by her answers to his accusations he slaps her a few times. Before he leaves her room, he tells her he wants nothing to do with her.

Ho and Kit head to their deal with the Vietnamese warlord. The warlord attempts to double-cross Ho. A shootout ensues. Mark came in the room dual wielding two M-16 rifles, intending to take his revenge on Ho after the shootout between the warlord and Ho died down. During the shootout between Ho and Mark, Kit is severely wounded by one of Ho’s men and Ho is killed by the warlord.

Michael, who survived the explosion, arrives with Pat to help Mark make his getaway with the wounded Kit. The four are pursued by the warlord in a tank, but Mark manages to destroy the tank with explosives, killing the warlord.

With Kit dying, Mark and Michael rush Kit to the embassy, where a mass evacuation is taking place due to the Fall of Saigon. Showing Kit’s travel pass to the guards, the three are granted aboard on the last chopper leaving the embassy, which lifts off just as the crowds rush in past the gate and the North Vietnamese flag is raised.

Succumbing to her severe injury, Kit dies in Mark’s arms. Cradling Kit’s lifeless body, Mark contemplates as the chopper flies off into the sunset.

Cast

  • Chow Yun-fat as Mark ‘Gor’ Lee.
  • Tony Leung Ka-fai as Michael Cheung Chi-mun.
  • Anita Mui as Chow Ying-kit.
  • Shih Kien as Michael’s father.
  • Saburō Tokitō as Sam Ho Cheung-ching/Tanaka.
  • Maggie Cheung Ho-yee as Ling.
  • Cheng Wai-lun as Pat.
  • Andrew Kam as Jimmy.
  • Foo Wang-tat as Uncle Mười.
  • Nam Yin as Bond.
  • Wan Seung-lam as General with Bond.
  • Wong Chi-wai as Bodyguard.
  • Kirk Wong as Bodyguard.
  • Tam Wai as Bodyguard.
  • To Wai-wo as Soldier.
  • Ho Chi-moon as Mr. Ho’s board member.
  • Thanh Hoàng.
  • Quyền Linh.
  • Leung Sam.
  • William Cheng.

Release

Box Office

The film grossed HK$18,476,116 at the Hong Kong box office.

Alternative Versions

The Taiwan version runs 145 minutes long, which is the complete uncut version. The Hong Kong version runs only 114 minutes long despite saying 130 minutes on the cover. On a special 2004 DVD release, there are a few minutes of scenes that were deleted from the Hong Kong version as a separate feature. A Chinese out-of-print DVD dubbed from Taiwan (but actually published in China) runs 130 minutes long, which is the extended version, which is shorter compared to the Taiwanese out-of-print 145-minute VCD. A Taiwan Long Shong VHS dubbed in Taiwan (and distributed from Taiwan) contains an alternate scene in which Anita kisses Tony Leung’s hand and is also shorter than the 145-minute Taiwan VCD.

Trivia

  • The film was directed by Tsui Hark, the producer behind the first two films in the series.
    • John Woo wrote a screenplay for a third instalment, but he never got to direct it due to having had artistic differences with Tsui during the filming of the second film.
    • Instead, the original screenplay later became Bullet in the Head (1990).
    • The two films have many parallels, most notably, both being set in the Vietnam War.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Hark Tsui.
  • Producer(s):
    • Rudolf Chiu … associate producer.
    • Yun-Chuen Geung … supervising producer.
    • Anthony Lo … supervising producer.
    • Hark Tsui … producer.
    • Lai-Fong Wong … supervising producer (as Margaret Wong).
    • John Woo … producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Yiu-Ming Leung … (screenplay).
    • Foo Ho Tai … (screenplay).
    • Hark Tsui … (writer).
  • Music:
    • Lowell Lo.
  • Cinematography:
    • Wing-Hang Wong.
  • Editor(s):
    • Marco Mak … (as Chi-Sin Mak).
    • Hark Tsui.
    • David Wu.
  • Production:
    • Golden Princess Film Production Limited.
    • Film Workshop.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Golden Princess Film Production Limited (1989) (Hong Kong) (theatrical).
    • Scenepalm (1990) (UK) (theatrical).
    • Toho-Towa (1990) (Japan) (theatrical).
    • Made in Hong Kong (1995) (UK) (VHS).
    • Tai Seng Video Marketing (2000) (USA) (DVD).
    • Laser Paradise (2001) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Dutch FilmWorks (DFW) (2002) (Netherlands) (DVD).
    • Dutch FilmWorks (DFW) (2002) (Netherlands) (VHS).
    • World Wide Cinema (2002) (Netherlands) (DVD).
    • World Wide Cinema (2002) (Netherlands) (VHS).
    • Hong Kong Legends (2005) (UK) (DVD).
    • Gordon’s Films (USA) (theatrical).
    • Screen Power Home Entertainment (Germany) (VHS).
  • Release Date: 09 September 1989 (Taiwan) and 20 October 1989 (Hong Kong).
  • Rating: 18.
  • Running Time: 111 minutes.
  • Country: Hong Kong.
  • Language: Cantonese, English, and Vietnamese.

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