In terms of simple provocation, nothing in this melodramatic mosaic of global suffering comes close to matching director Thom Fitzgerald's press kit prediction that "the AIDS pandemic will be seen in retrospect as much more significant than the ongoing jihad." A film about that could be compelling; this one is merely content to suggest, cleverly and often, that it recognizes far more than we ever could the pain and cruelty of disease. Babel-ian in its original version, which shuffled between continents and premiered a year ago in Toronto, Fitzgerald's movie now lays its international trio of "needles" in a row: First, a Chinese black-market blood collector (Lucy Liu) half-wittingly spreads HIV throughout a farming community; then a Canadian actor (Shawn Ashmore) fakes his blood tests in order to keep starring in porno movies; and finally, three selfless missionaries in South Africa (Olympia Dukakis, Sandra Oh, and Chlo Sevigny) endure the rampant ignorance of black people so that Fitzgerald can again emphasize the significance of his own work. If, as a movie, 3 Needles amounts to unclean entertainment at best, the scale tipper in consumer guide terms might be the distributor's promised donation of box office proceeds to local charities in conjunction with World AIDS Day.
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