Review: THE SNIPER 神鎗手 (2009) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: THE SNIPER 神鎗手 (2009)

Review: THE SNIPER 神鎗手 (2009)

THE SNIPER focuses on an elite team of Hong Kong's SDU Sniper Team, lead by sniping commander Hartman (Richie Jen). Enter O.J. (Edison Chen), a young, ambitious and hotheaded rookie who enters Hartman's team and wants to be the best of the best. But like any other self-confident and cocky newcomer, OJ is sometimes hard to control, especially with his bad-boy attitude all around. Then there's Hartman's former colleague and leader Lincoln (Mainland star Huang Xiaoming), a psychopathic top sniper who has served four years in prison for manslaughter after a mission gone awry. Once released from prison, his ultimate goal is nothing more than a vengeance in his mind. After purchasing a sniper rifle illegally, he proceeds to help out crime boss Tao (Jack Kao) escape from police custody and set to challenge against the law enforcers.

REVIEW: Originally set for last year's release, Dante Lam's THE SNIPER is forced to pull off at the last-minute decision from the theatrical release, due to the Edison Chen's widely publicised sex scandal that rocked the Hong Kong film industry into a near standstill. In the meantime, Lam hits an almost return-to-form with the critically-acclaimed crime thriller BEAST STALKER late last year. Not only that, the movie also won both largely under-appreciated Nick Cheung Ka-Fai and Liu Kai-Chi with Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively at the recent Hong Kong Film Awards.

Unfortunately, lightning doesn't strike twice here with this much-delayed THE SNIPER. Definitely out of the league if to compare with BEAST STALKER, this movie is more of a slickly-packaged action thriller aimed for commercial appeal -- all style but no substance.

Thanks to the bad publicity surrounding Edison Chen's sex scandal, much of the movie's original running time is heavily trimmed into a compact and streamlined version.

Not surprisingly, Jack Ng's screenplay feels incomplete, especially when the story deals with each characters' personal agenda which are all briefly glimpsed and then disappeared all of the sudden: Hartman has problem at home trying to cope with his suicidal ex-wife Mon (Michelle Ye); OJ's rocky relationship with his gambling dad (Stephen Tung Wai); and Lincoln's estranged girlfriend Crystal (Mango Wong) who has tough time trying to make sense with his psychotic boyfriend.

All the subplots introduced here are so sloppy that it feels more like a filler than a necessity, while the heavy trim also caused the characters reduced into mere stock caricatures. Except for Huang Xiaoming, who manages to bring the movie's already ill-fated affair some acting gravitas, the rest of the actors are nothing more than a bunch of showy presences. Richie Jen and especially Edison Chen, are seen more as macho swaggers mostly in part of being shirtless and sweaty beefcakes running, shooting and yelling at each other than anything else matters.

While the cast and the story leave little to be desired of, at least you still can count on Dante Lam to deliver some solid action sequences. On the technical standpoint, the movie is generally exciting enough to keep on rooted -- lots of cool-looking riflescope POV shots and especially some well-crafted violent action set pieces (e.g. the claustrophobic shootout sequence in the elevator).

It's just sad the rest of the movie doesn't live up to the expectations, in which THE SNIPER could have been better.

Following his award-winning BEAST STALKER, Dante Lam's much-delayed follow-up is a glossy and stylish action thriller minus all the strong dramatic standpoint.

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