Director: Dante Lam
Cast: Edison Chen, Richie Jen, Huang Xiaoming,
Wilfred Lau, Bowie Lam, Liu Kai Chi, Jack Kao, Charmaine Fong
RunTime: 1 hr 29 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: NC-16 (Violence)
Official Website: http://www.mediaasia.com/thesniper/
Opening Day: 9 April 2009
(RICHIE JEN) is known as the top shooter in the police force.
But behind the legend lies a skeleton in the closet. His former
teammate and superb marksman LINCOLN (HUANG XIAOMING), who
was jailed for accidentally killing a hostage, has just been
released. With only vengeance in his mind, Lincoln determines
to take on Hartman and the police, believing they are the
real culprits for his fall.
When a high-security prisoner transfer is sabotaged by a mysterious
sniper and a major convict has escaped, Hartman and his team
are dispatched to profile the suspect. OJ (EDISON CHEN), the
hot-headed rookie on the team, surprises everyone by accurately
replicating the suspect’s impossible shots. Hartman
sees the potential in this youngster and decides to take him
under his wing. Yet when OJ becomes fascinated by Lincoln
and determines to top his shooting skills, he might become
another wild card on the loose.
If the merits of a particular movie are overshadowed by an unwanted scandal then "The Sniper" is one that snugly fits the bill.
Already in the can for more than a year, the Dante Lam directed action flick tells the tale of Hartman (Richie Jen) and Lincoln (Huang Xiaoming from television series Lu Ding Ji), two top competitive snipers with equally shooting skills who vies for the same top post in the police force. Until one day Lincoln gets slapped with a manslaughter charge after a mission went horribly wrong. Lincoln blames his team for not backing him up while Hartman on the other hand blames it on Lincoln’s cocky and over-confidence attitude that landed him in hot soup. Now four years later after his jail sentence, all Lincoln wants is to exact revenge on Hartman and his team.
So the question is where does Edison Chen come into the picture? The man who caused a sensation last year plays a rookie cop OJ who is handpicked by Hartman to join his sniper team. In the movie, he plays second fiddle to Richie Jen and Huang Xiaomings' characters much to my dismay. The character of OJ has much potential to develop but strangely left as a plain caricature. Whether this is intentionally altered by Media Asia after the scandal broke, we give it a benefit of the doubt. Fans of Edison might be disappointed that since the story angle is largely not resting on Chen, as a result his screen presence doesn’t amounts to much of the total running time.
In fact, Huang Xiaoming’s tragic turn as Lincoln might leave a deeper impression. Dante gives Lincoln's more characterization far more than Hartman and OJ. We learnt how the man is haunted by the guilt of the man he wrongly killed and the untimely demised of his newly-wed wife. Minor touches that add to why a man turned to the wrong side of the law.
The tight 89 minutes duration leave not much room for further story development given there are other veterans such as Bowie Lam, Jack Kao (who helms from Taiwan) and Liao Kai Chi (Protégé) that share the screen with Jen, Huang and Chen. TVB regular Bowie Lam turns in a reliable performance as Hartman’s subordinate with Kao and Liao as menacing evil-doers accompanied with a laughable Hokkien-dubbed dialog track.
Director Lam who has since went on to direct the acclaimed "Beast Stalkers" and the CG animation, "Storm Riders: Clash of Evils" is no stranger to gritty cops and robbers thriller. Fortunately he is at the top of his game here after recent lacklustre efforts such as "Heat Team" and "Naked Ambition". The various action pieces in "The Sniper" while not excessively staged on a large scale stands out for being intense, taut and believable. Highlights include a violent hijack by the baddies assisted by Lincoln that gets your adrenalin running and how a clever shot executed by OJ helps foils a hostage situation. With the exception of some poorly-done CG shots, the lush grandeur Hong Kong landscape and skyscrapers is beautifully captured by lenser Cheung Man Po given that much of the action took place in broad daylight.
"The Sniper" reeks so strongly of male machismo that for every cheesy philosophy mouth by Hartman, you get shots of half-naked men running around with threatening weaponry. And for all enlistees out there, remember to earn your marksman, you need to get your breathing technique right. No doubt about it, "The Sniper" is an easily accessible no-nonsense action thriller with none of the pretext for unnecessary narratives and subplots. Fans of the action genre will not be disappointed.
(Hold your breath, this Sniper is gripping, taut and intense!)
Review by Linus Tee