IF we are to trust the directing and producing credits connected to this Category III sex-thriller, participants out of the girls with guns-genre apparently had a desire to produce smut too! Director Wong Jan-Yeung was behind several classics that followed in the wake of Angel, including Devil Hunters (that nearly cost among others Moon Lee her life after a fire stunt went wrong), Dreaming The Reality and the mad Moon Lee/Yukari Oshima comedy The Big Deal. So you could sense a want to branch out and yes, Wong also directed The Holy Virgin Vs The Evil Dead, bearing both the III and with exploitation and action elements. Within the busy (and busty?) production schedule of these type of movies during this time, 1/3 Lover is one of those that at a glance doesn't seem to offer up anything. It looks harsh, sets are limited, scope is definitely limited but you have to look for yourself that it tries a little bit harder while also pleasing the market. A little bit and pleasing sums it up.
May (Yip Shun) arrives at the house where her cousin Mona (Murakami Rena) lives with her sick husband Hwang Fei-Hung (Tin Ching). The stepson of Hwang's, Wai (Lee Ho-Kwan) also lives upstairs and slowly it's revealed May is in a house of secrets (and sex). All having to do with a hot headed cop pestering Mona...
Since 1/3 Lover doesn't attempt to be a cheap sex comedy or even going into period territory, for director Wong Jan-Yeung it's not entirely inappropriate to write and direct this sex thriller. Primarily Dreaming The Reality showed an eye for drama but also Devil Hunters possessed a gritty mood so experiences added up is drawn upon in 1/3 Lover. Not that we're dealing with the prime storytelling of Category III cinema in the 90s but admirably Wong pushes buttons of darkness, uses harsh locations well for the harsh secrets in the story and it adds up to an unexpected polish.
After Stuart Ong's cameo as a cop chasing Mona and after Ong has participated in yet another quite heinous sex scenario (he seemed to be game, check out Rock On Fire where even the dead can be played with sexually), we get to see Yukari Oshima as the ugly maid enjoying some pratfall humour and the character of May is introduced and I mention these because they are elements not at all needed to push the story ahead. Yukari walks in an out of scenes, catching the other house staff having sex and May is often there to peep and enjoy herself. I get it, it's not un-suitable to have a little enjoyment and you do have to have a character gallery that stretches beyond five but as part of the structure of 1/3 Lover, Yukari Oshima and Yip Shun's May are largely useless. Yip Shun as well as lead Murakami Rena does get to look good on screen and be part of the steam however, with most of that kudos going to the latter. Overall actually, the mystery of the movie seems more elaborate than it is which is a benefactor as there's not much to tie together for director Wong by the end but it also means we're merely experiencing something very basic and barely affecting. Selfish characters, characters weak for sex and a sense of pending doom.... yep, it's all very easy to figure out where we're going. But also overall, the darker and close to the violent end it comes, we're engaged by Murakami Rena's dark character but in particular by the pathetic Tin Ching as the sex starved, impotent husband with the cash. It does lead to him taking part in the sex and the veteran doesn't flinch for a bit before heading right into bondage, groping and a helplessness.
1/3 Lover doesn't surprise as filmmaking in general but despite a limited toolbox, a girls with guns director manages to push some basic buttons of erotica, harsh settings suitable for the material and making sure his ladies look good on camera. Yukari Oshima fans should however feel that she didn't need to be on-camera for her comedic role. It's enough branching out to act as producer on this valid effort that could neither be very applauded or laughed at and THAT... is huge kudos in the Cat III world of the 90s.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson