Hartman (Richie Ren) is a renowned top shooter in the police force but hides a secret past - his former teammate, superb marksman Lincoln (Huang Xiaoming) who was jailed for a mysterious case of accidentally killing a hostage, has now been released. With only vengeance in his mind, Lincoln takes on Hartman and the police, believing that they betrayed him. When a high-security prisoner transfer is sabotaged by an unknown sniper and a high profile convict escapes, a young upstart OJ (Edison Chen), the hot-headed rookie on the team, surprises everyone by accurately replicating the suspect's impossible shots. A battle of wits ensues as OJ becomes fascinated with Lincoln's skills yet bound by Hartman's rules.
One of the lessons that Dante Lam’s “The Sniper” tries to impart can be summed up very simply- pride comes before the fall. Indeed, that is what befalls Hartman (Ritchie Jen) and Lincoln (Huang Xiaoming), two snipers at the top of their game who let their own personal conceit get the better of them. Hartman’s quest to be “top shooter” leads him to deceit and the downfall of his fellow team member Lincoln; and Lincoln’s quest for revenge blinds him to the consequences of his actions.
But perhaps the most interesting character (or person) whom this lesson applies to is OJ (played by the now infamous Edison Chen). Yes, “The Sniper” is the movie that got delayed for a year thanks to some pictures and videos that got leaked, and when it finally came out in theatres, reporters were quick to draw similarities between Edison Chen’s confident (and perhaps overconfident) character OJ and his own real-life persona.
No matter the uncanny similarities, “The Sniper” is an unfortunate victim of an overblown media frenzy (did anyone really expect Edison Chen to be an angel?). But if anything, this enjoyable B-grade Hong Kong action flick probably enjoyed some free publicity. Certainly, one shouldn’t expect anything deep from this brief 83-minute movie (we’ll never know how much was trimmed, if at all), a film oozing from every pore with male machismo and bravado.
So much so that “The Sniper” does look at times like a glorified advertisement for Hong Kong’s Special Forces, as cinematographer Man Po Cheung gleefully frames numerous shots of Hartman, Lincoln and OJ looking impeccably cool with their sniper rifles. And for the lack of a better comparison, “The Sniper” looks like a Michael Bay film done Hong Kong-style.
That’s actually a compliment for director Dante Lam, who displays Bay’s flair for staging action. Each of the many action scenes in the movie crackle with tension and excitement, and are intensely engaging to watch. Most notable is its climactic finale, set in an abandoned warehouse, where good-guy-turned-bad Lincoln plays a cat-and-mouse game on a deadline with the entire of Hartman’s team.
Among the male-dominant cast, Ritchie Jen is undoubtedly the most outstanding. The singer/actor has never been the most reliable of performers, but he rewards the opportunity to play a more complicated character with a credible acting turn. The same however can’t be said of Huang Xiaoming or Edison Chen, both of whom lack the gravitas to give their respective characters more weight.
But of course, “The Sniper” is and has always been an unabashed action movie that seeks to entertain first and foremost which it does so thanks to director Dante Lam’s efficient direction. Anything else- including the moral of the story- comes secondary. (Perhaps that’s why Edison Chen didn’t pay enough attention to a lesson that became presciently relevant just a few months later.) So if you’re in need of an action fix, look no further than “The Sniper”.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
There is a 20-minute making of that is made up of 5 distinct sections. The first three centre on each of the three main characters (Hartman, Lincoln and OJ) and their respective personalities in the movie. The last two focus on the inspiration and the training that went on prior to the shooting of this movie.
Picture is clear and crisp, without any visible defects throughout the movie. However, the Dolby 2.0 audio could have done with a little more ‘oomph’ especially during the action scenes. Audio’s only in Mandarin so those hoping for a Cantonese track will be disappointed.
by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 24 August 2009