3 Needles

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3 Needles
Review (6/10)
(By Ron Henriques)

Maybe I was a little too hard on "Babel", another film filled with small stories that shared a common link. Where the link in that film was a rifle and the lives of those it impacted, Thom Fitzgerald's film chooses to tackle the AIDS crisis with nearly disastrous results. Such a broad subject couldn't be fully touched upon within the space of a two-hour film, which is probably why the version of "3 Needles" being released in U.S. theaters is the director's extended cut. Even with what we're presented with, it doesn't seem possible that extra footage would make a difference.

The three stories are each set in China, Montreal and Africa. In the first, Lucy Liu plays a pregnant entrepreneur running a black market blood bank. Her business causes quite a crisis when an epidemic spreads amongst the poor farming community, causing many to die. In Montreal, Shawn Ashmore (Iceman from the X-Men films) plays a young porn actor living with his parents. Though he and his sex partners are constantly tested for the virus, the jig is up when his donor ? his ailing father dies and it's discovered that the blood he supplied for testing was not his own. In Africa, missionary nuns, Olympia Dukakis, Sandra Oh and Chloe Sevigny discovery the harsh conditions that native workers operate under. To their horror, they learn that many superstitious natives that are infected with the virus seek to rape young children as a method of curing themselves. Dukakis provides narration that serves to link all three stories, but it gives off the atmosphere of a PBS documentary parody.

Though the characters find themselves in dire situations, they still come across as silly. The pregnant Liu ends up raped by a group of soldiers who pull over her delivery van and discover her operation. Ashmore is unconvincing as a porn actor in scenes that look like a spoof of porno films. Sevigny, still luminous under a habit, resorts to giving herself over to a much older Africaan plantation owner in exchange for aid to a family of orphans. Even more outrageous is the scheme concocted by Ashmore's mother Stockard Channing, who upon learning of her son's occupation and medical condition, decides to infect herself and sell their multi-million dollar life insurance policy. Films with a triptych structure probably aren't going away anytime soon, but in the meantime we have to contend with features that try to pass off soap-opera material as good intentioned pieces meant to provide awareness of a powerful subject.

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