You know how in some films, you need a scorecard to keep track of the characters? Here, it's a calendar that's required: never have I seen more "12 years earlier" or "seven months later" captions. It starts almost immediately after the end of IA2, but soon opts for a tortured, convoluted and apparently pointless structure, mixing flashbacks from several eras with ongoing events. Unless you've recently watched its predecessors, you'll likely be baffled, perplexed, irritated and, ultimately, turned off. The closest thing to a focus is triad mole Lau, though he spends far too much time lying in a chair in the office of his psychiatrist (Chen). He ruminates on how his life got the way it is, and the increasing parallels with her last patient, Chan, the undercover cop from the first two parts.
Cutting to the chase - more than the film ever does - it's a mess, made all the worse by the fact that, individually, most of the scenes are fine. Lai, playing a Security Division chief, is particularly impressive, while Tsang and Anthony Wong are as solid as ever. The end result is as if someone took three movies, cut them into little chunks, tossed them in the air, then released 108 minutes of floor-sweepings. While parts I and II demonstrate that Hong Kong can still produce cinema every bit as mature and thoughtful as anywhere in the world, the finale instead opts to stuffs a hand-grenade in its mouth and pulls the pin. It's not a pretty sight.