The Heroic Trio / Executioners


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The star power of cinema icons Maggie Cheung, Anita Mui, and Michelle Yeoh fuels these gloriously unrestrained action joyrides from auteur Johnnie To and action choreographer Ching Siu-tung. The Heroic Trio and its sequel, Executioners, follow a new kind of justice league: a team of blade-throwing, shotgun-toting, kung fu–fighting heroines who join forces to battle evildoers in a dystopian, noirish city. Blending dazzling martial-arts mayhem with exhilarating blasts of comic-book lunacy, these beloved superhero movies reimagine the genre through the giddy genius of the Hong Kong film industry at its height.

Picture 8/10

Johnnie To’s The Heroic Trio and its sequel Executioners receive a new two-disc Blu-ray edition from The Criterion Collection. Each film is presented on individual dual-layer discs with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The high-definition presentations, in 1080p/24hz, are sourced from new 4K restorations performed by Media Asia.

While both high-definition presentations are generally acceptable, they fall slightly short of the expectations set by the 4K presentations on Criterion’s UHD edition. Some problems stem from the film materials or the base master itself, similar to the UHD presentations. However, some encoding issues on the Blu-rays, not apparent on the UHD, detract from the overall quality.

The images are primarily sharp and exhibit superb detail at their best. Occasionally, limitations arise from the film elements, either due to slight focus issues or the use of later-generation sources. Additionally, minor filtering applied to the digital master, likely by Media Asia, can soften the image slightly.

Nevertheless, grain remains evident and has not been entirely removed, though its rendering is not as strong as the 4K presentation. In many of the film’s smokier shots, grain can appear buzzy, with some macroblocking visible in darker areas. The films received ample room on their respective discs (as supplements are slim), so there isn't much excuse here.

On the positive side, colors and black levels are impressive, mirroring the quality of the UHD presentations. The first film, in particular, boasts incredibly vibrant colors, with reds, blues, greens, and yellows virtually popping off the screen. Additionally, black levels are deep, and shadows blend smoothly.

Ultimately, while the Blu-ray presentations of the two films exhibit some notable shortcomings compared to the 4K UHD editions, they still offer a satisfactory viewing experience.

Audio 7/10

Criterion includes three audio tracks for both films: a Cantonese monaural soundtrack (both in single-channel PCM), a Cantonese 5.1 surround soundtrack (both in DTS-HD MA), and an English monaural soundtrack (2-channel Dolby Digital for The Heroic Trio, single-channel Dolby Digital for the sequel).

To my surprise, all three sound reasonably good. Dialogue sounds flat across all of them, which isn’t a shock (they’re all dubs), but the overall presentations still sound sharp and clear, with both the film’s audio effects and music delivering a modest level range. The two Cantonese soundtracks don’t sound too dissimilar, with the surround presentation simply spreading some music and effects to the other channels. Though there are some decent moments regarding the twirling action and use of echoes, the surround mix isn’t all that creative.

The English dubs can sound harsher than the Cantonese tracks but are still okay overall. Since the quality of all three is quite good, it will come down to personal preference.

Extras 3/10

Features prove to be incredibly underwhelming, to say the least, with only a couple of new interviews alongside trailers for each film. The first Blu-ray disc (featuring The Heroic Trio) first features an 18-minute interview with film critic Samm Deighan, who takes the time to explore the film’s roots in wuxia before talking about the film’s stars and its fight sequences. She also takes the time to place the movie in the context of the period in Hong Kong, with the Handover approaching, addressing how the plotlines of each film play off of some of the anxieties.

It's a good summary, though it could have been expanded into a commentary. I also liked the new interview with actor Anthony Wong on the second Blu-ray alongside Executioners. However, it’s painfully short at 7 minutes, only leaving the actor to recall his work on both films vaguely.

The essay by Beatrice Loayza included in the poster insert is a decent read, expanding on Deighan’s comments and touching on the Hong Kong film industry in the early 90s.

Again, what’s here is fine, but there is much more to explore, and it all feels like an afterthought.


Despite falling short of the expectations set by Criterion's own UHD edition, the high-def presentations for both films are still sharp and vibrant.


Directed by: Johnnie To
Year: 1993 | 1993
Time: 88 | 97 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 1207
Licensor: Media Asia Film
Release Date: February 20 2024
MSRP: $49.95
2 Discs | BD-50
1.78:1 ratio
Cantonese 1.0 PCM Mono
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region A
 New interview with actor Anthony Wong   New interview with film critic Samm Deighan (cohost of the podcast Twitch of the Death Nerve Trailer for The Heroic Trio   Trailer for Executioners   An essay by critic Beatrice Loayza