Thursday, April 23, 2009

THE SNIPER: Cocky, But Still A Hit

THE SNIPER (action thriller)
Cast: Richie Jen, Edison Chen, Huang Xiaoming, Jack Kao and Bowie Lam
Director: Dante Lam
Time: 86 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: Cocky, cocky, cocky! This is the impression I get when I see Edison Chen, Huang Xiaoming and Dante Lam strut their stuff in The Sniper. And no, I am not referring to the Sex Picture Scandal of 2008 that derailed Chen's acting career and delayed the release of this film.

I am talking about the trio's attitude in this movie. Chen goes through the paces with a perpetual arrogant pout, thinking that he is better than everybody in the sniper unit; Huang maintains a totally-pissed-at-everyone look; and as for director Lam, I shall discuss him in the Hits & Miss section.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The plot deals with three members of the elite Sniper Unit of HK Police. Hartman (Richie Jen), the unit leader recruits OJ (Chen, pictured below) into the squad after being impressed by him during an operation. Hartman takes it upon himself to teach OJ the ropes but the young upstart is soon drawn into the rivalry between Hartman and the unit's former commander Lincoln (Huang) that started four years ago.

Lincoln, who has served time for a manslaughter charge arising from a hostage crisis, is bent on wreaking revenge not only for his incarceration but also for the suicide of his wife. His vengeance is rather elaborate and it involves a criminal mastermind named Tao (Jack Kao).

HITS & MISSES: Dante Lam is a director with an attitude. He has this take-it-or-leave-it style that overwhelms his substance, and he doesn't seem to care what his viewers think. His forte is in his action set pieces incorporating slow-mo bullet scenes and blood splashes. Lam is not bothered about plot exposition: he just dispenses his series of seemingly unconnected sequences - and expects the audience to make sense of it.

According to media reports, Lam takes pride in researching his material. Here, he delves into sniper jargon and procedures and comes up with grandiloquent stuff like holding one's breath while taking multiple shots, how much pressure to apply to the trigger, etc.

Another example is Lam's subplot about Lincoln's wife - which appears like flashbacks at first. Then there is another one dealing with Hartman's estranged wife which also touches on suicide. Regrettably, none of these is developed well enough for us form a proper story.

Lam, however, vindicates himself with a seat-gripper of a climax. For action fans, the showdown should be exhilarating enough for them to overlook the flaws and the attitude.

THE LOWDOWN: Probably the last Edison Chen movie for a long time.


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