Way back in the ‘80s, I can recall doing a fifth grade science project on a fledgling disease called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. I got a bunch of material from my Dad (who worked at the National Institute of Health) and went ahead and did it. To be honest, I really don’t remember if I did this report before or after the first recognizable name died from it (that being Rock Hudson), but in the quarter century since AIDS cases were first identified, over 25 million people have died and almos… 40 million currently live with the disease. 3 Needles is a film written and directed by Thom Fitzgerald (The Wild Dogs), and what the film may attempt to communicate (or even dispel) is that AIDS is not predominantly a disease where behavior dictates contraction, sometimes a person’s fate might be dictated before they are even aware of it.
The film is broken down in three stages over three different landscapes. In China, Jin Ping (Lucy Liu, Charlie’s Angels) is operating a black market blood supply ring with the intent of getting the much needed fluid to smaller villages that might require it. The environment in the operation clearly lacks a sense of hygiene, and Ping openly solicits other villagers and pays them for their donations, among them a young girl. This segment features characters that are quite a bit stoic and introverted, and while Liu may be the big name in this one, it’s the girl and her father that turn in better performances and are really the only things worth caring about here.
Switching locales and going to Montreal, Denys (Shawn Ashmore, X2) is a porn actor hiding his job from his mother, while taking care of his infirmed father. He is aware that he probably has the disease, and tries to employ some extraordinary means to keep it from people. When his mother (Stockard Channing, The West Wing) suddenly finds out about her son’s career and his new diagnosis, she turns to some confusing tactics to take care of his son, who has since been ostracized for concealing his illness from the people he worked with. The things that Channing was doing did kind of stretch the realm of believability, and in fact Ashmore’s performance was quite surprising.
In the third segment, a triumvirate of South African nuns (played by Sideways’ Sandra Oh, Steel Magnolias’ Olympia Dukakis and Sisters’ Chloe Sevigny, respectively) encounters a local plantation owner, and Clara (Sevigny) makes a compromise in order to try and save the lives of some tribal children. To tell you the truth, after almost 90 minutes of depression, this one was the hardest to take.
Dolby Stereo, which is no big surprise. Even on just a stereo mix with a dialogue driven film, this comes off as sounding weak, and a lot of times you’re probably better off with your TV speakers if they’re strong enough.
2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. Ugh. To be fair though, the cinematography of the film is quite good, with shots normally reserved for grander epic films, and the image looks good most of the film and shows off a few different color palettes.
The extras that are included on the disc are more educational than production-related. First is a series of deleted scenes, followed by a couple of ten minute looks at the efforts to educate on the virus. The first centers around the efforts of education and prevention in China, spearheaded by basketball stars Magic Johnson and Yao Ming. Next are a couple of smaller pieces discussing the disease’s impact in America. After that is a stills gallery and a host of trailers, including one for the film. It would have been nice to see some sort of commentary by Fitzgerald and members of the cast and crew, but oh well.
A couple of the stories make for very compelling viewing, but overall this film should be viewed as a little bit more educational than entertainment. If that is the case, then this film is certainly worth seeing. But there’s nothing too affecting or memorable that would make me recommend buying this.
Special Features List
- Deleted Scenes
- AIDS in China and America Featurettes
- Still Galleries