Three very different parts of the world – China, the African coast and Montreal – have one thing in common: the AIDS pandemic has reared its ugly head and is wreaking its havoc in each place. Canadian helmer Thom Fitzgerald brings us to these far-flung locales to tell stories of the people affected by “3 Needles.”
This AIDS trilogy starts of with solid intrigue when blood runner, Jin Ping (Lucy Liu), tries to port large quantities of the stuff across rural China, ostensibly, for humanitarian reasons. But, when the cleanliness” of her product comes into question – the tainted blood ravages a village receiving her largess – the morality of her mission comes into question.
Part two brings us to Montreal where Denny (Shawn Ashmore) earns a living performing in porno films, a profession he keeps from his financially dependent mom (Stockard Channing). His biz requires that he have current HIV test results in order to continue working. But, Denny has AIDS and he must give false test results to his employers. His sordid finagling eventually comes to his mother’s attention and there isn’t a thing a mom won’t do for her kid, to a chilling end
The third has a young nun, Sister Clara (Chloe Sevigny), working with missionaries (Olympia Dukakis and Sandra Oh) in a remote village in Africa. Their battle against hunger, disease, particularly AIDS, and ignorance is often fruitless and Sister Clara must make great sacrifice for the good of all.
Lucy Lui is solid (a thing I thought I’d never say) as the amoral Jin Ping with the actress giving real depth to her character. She comes off as the brave humanitarian at first but, as her ulterior motives come to light, her dark, greedy side springs forth. Stockard Channing gives a good performance in a manipulative story that uses shock to make its point. Chloe Sevigny is woefully miscast as the sacrificial lamb, never mind as a nun. (I couldn’t get “Brown Bunny” out of my head.)
Techs are unremarkable though the China sequence photography is sumptuously done.
3 Needles” is a case of diminishing returns with the first story of blood running in China the best and the last, set in Africa, the least compelling. The middle Montreal story falls somewhere in between. The hit-you-over-the-head message about the seriousness of the AIDS pandemic is worn on the filmmaker’s sleeve proudly. But, it gets so repetitive with its one note message that, by the end, I found myself saying, “OK, I get it!” It never struck home with me. I give it a C.Laura:
Laura gives "3 Needles" a C-.
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