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05 April 2009 | 1600 HRS Hibiscus Room The Grand Hyatt

It’s not easy shooting action movies in Hong Kong, as veteran director Dante Lam will tell you promptly.

“Hong Kong is actually quite a small place, and there are a lot of people and cars on the road. If you’re just doing fistfights, then that’s much easier. But if you’re shooting gun battles or explosions, then that’s really quite difficult,” he said.

The trick is, he divulges, to do it secretly whenever possible- unless of course the movie calls for an extended gunfight or explosion scene. In which case, it will require many days of preparation just to shoot that scene, something his latest movie “The Sniper” certainly necessitated.

In fact, the movie’s finale takes place in downtown Hong Kong where three expert snipers, Hartman (Ritchie Jen), OJ (Edison Chen) and Lincoln (Huang Xiaoming) face off in a climatic showdown. It is the culmination of a rivalry between two of them, Hartman and Lincoln- the latter bent on exacting revenge after suspecting Hartman of framing him for a mission gone wrong.

Like several of his previous movies “Beast Stalker” and his award-winning “Beast Cops”, “The Sniper” also features conflicted characters at odds with one another. And this is by no means coincidental.

“Every movie needs a theme. You can’t just film an action movie for the sake of an action movie. You need to find a theme in the movie, a message that you want to share with your audience.”

He added: “The Sniper is about the mistakes that all of us make in our lives. All of us have our own ego. The question is whether we can face up to our own pride, whether we can triumph over our arrogance and confront our difficulties.”

But ask him how this applies to Edison Chen in real life, and he gets a little miffed. Dashing away persistent comparisons between the similarity of Edison Chen’s headstrong sniper character OJ and his real-life persona, he encourages the media to see how self-confidence is a necessary quality for OJ and a sniper in general.

Certainly, he would know- the director has spent more than 10 years of research familiarising himself with the material. Since his directorial debut back in 1997 with Option Zero, a movie about the elite paramilitary Special Duties Unit (SDU) of the Hong Kong Police Force, the director said that he has constantly been in contact with people in the Special Forces.

Indeed, “The Sniper” is one more in his long list of films that reflect the interest he has always had in such a subject matter. But the movie, which was completed more than a year ago, had its release date delayed by the studio because of the infamous Edison Chen scandal. That was a feeling for him, “like a father waiting for his wife to give birth to his child”.

Even so, the movie will not be released in China- but he is not upset. Speaking almost philosophically, he said: “Every movie has its own life, so maybe this movie is not meant to live its life there. But still there will always be other places where it will be able to thrive.”

Surely, after 15 years of directing action films, director Dante Lam knows that there has been and probably will always be an audience for action movies. “I was very surprised when “The Sniper” actually sold out both its screenings at a film festival in France.” And to be sure, he added, the people who saw it actually enjoyed it very much.

The Sniper opens 9 April 2009

The Sniper Singapore Press Conference + Interview with Richie Jen

Interview: Gabriel Chong | Video: Richard Lim Jr | Photos: Linus Tee
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