Here we have three short films by three of Asia's most talented directors. While this has been marketed to the US as the first of the "...Extremes" series, it's actually the second chapter. When released in Asia, it was known as "Three ...Extremes 2". The series is known for taking famous directors and giving each around 40 minutes to tell a story. The three stories do not intersect, they are each their own narrative. The three directors here are Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition), Fruit Chan (Little Cheung) and Chan-Wook Park (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance). None of these are household names in the US, but all are very well respected directors in their native land.
Takashi Miike directs the first film, Box, which is a tale of jealousy between two sisters. I was very surprised to see such a subtle movie from Miike. Typically this director is known for all out assaults on your audio/visual senses. Movies like the aforementioned Ichi the Killer had blood shooting in every direction. Audition had what might be the most violent torture scene ever filmed. Here, Miike attempts to play more with your mind then your eyes/ears. The result is mixed. The film isn't very scary, but it does an excellent job of telling the story in a very subtle way. The two sisters had been raised in a traveling circus with each one fighting for their father's attention. The less you know about these films the better, so I am going to leave the plot synopsis at that. The most shocking thing about this film is that it is so subdued. Compared to the other 2 short stories here, Miike's makes the least impact, and that, in and of itself, is a surprise.
The Second Film, Dumplings, is directed by Fruit Chan. The central theme here is vanity and what lengths some of us might go to remain looking young. The story here revolves around an actress who needs to keep her face looking as young as possible to keep her career. She finds a "specialist" who makes dumplings that act as the fountain of youth. Bai Ling stars as the dumpling maker and she does an excellent job. The secret here is what's in the dumplings, and once you find out, I think you will agree this is the most extreme of the three tales told. This is the most difficult portion to watch, but if you pay attention to the message here, it is well worth the time.
Last, but not least is Chan-Wook Park's film cut. This movie focuses on revenge, although jealousy is an underlying theme. Seems like Mr. Park has revenge on his mind an awful lot lately (see Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance). Here an actor feels slighted by a director. To get back at this director he hijacks a set and then ties the director's wife with piano wire. The director has to make certain choices to save his wife. This portion of the film isn't as extreme as Dumplings, but this might be the best story of the three. It's very well paced and was a worthy completion to this trilogy of horror.
When looking at the film as a whole, it's not short on the extreme. It's not just a clever little title; it is a disclaimer as to what you will dive into. Overall I loved the film and I liked each section more than the last. I have heard some people say they did not enjoy Park's Cut, but I found it very entertaining. Also, I have heard people ask the question, "Why is cinema like this made". Well if you are willing to watch and see these movies for what they are, you will see commentaries on society's lust for keeping the body young, a family's jealousy of one another and a man hell bent on repaying a world back that ignored him. All of these films are just the extreme of their topics, and if you are willing to see it for what it is, you will not forget it.