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  Sniper, The Miserable MarksmenBuy this film here.
Year: 2009
Director: Dante Lam
Stars: Richie Ren, Huang Xiaoming, Edison Chen, Bowie Lam, Chi Liu Kai, Jack Kao, Wilfred Lau, Mango Wong, Michelle Ye, Charmaine Fong, Patrick Tang, Lawrence Ah Mon, Poon Yuen-Leung, Cheung Chi-Sing, Tung Wei, Gregory Lam, Lam Chi Tai
Genre: Drama, Action, Thriller
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: OJ (Edison Chen) was an officer with the Hong Kong Police Department until one night when he and his partner were checking out criminal activity at a remote location near the forest, not knowing there was a team of snipers training their sights on the gang members inside and around this building. OJ was about to creep closer when his partner hit part of the construction and made a noise which alerted the gangsters, so had to move fast - bursting in, gun drawn, and about to get killed if it had not been for Hartman (Richie Ren), sniper extraordinaire...

Nevertheless, Hartman sees possibilities in OJ, and the young cop is recruited to that part of the force which trains up officers for sniper duty, as you may have guessed, indeed, the only ace up the sleeve of director Dante Lam for his action movie were those scenes where his cast peered down the barrel of their rifles and targetted some hapless chap. Everywhere else was a hefty dose of leadfooted drama which was intended to build up the characters, but only served to make you wish they hurry up and get back to something markedly more interesting, such as the main plot which saw disgruntled ex-sniper Lincoln (Huang Xiaoming) channel his rage into, well, shooting people.

From a distance, that was, keeping the main visual motifs of the film, but looking increasingly as if this was a work with one idea in its head, and it was going to plough it into the ground no matter what. That was not what this became best known for, as there was a controversy about one of its cast members which saw what had been the star demoted to support thanks to rumours of his role being much reduced in the edit - certainly, there was a fairly short running time to this in its finished form. Edison Chen was that star, and this was the last film he said he would ever make (er, until his low key return to the big screen a couple of years later).

There was such a scandal that nobody in Asia could not have been aware of what Chen had got up to as fans turned against him and those who never liked him anyway watched films like The Sniper and judged him to be worthless all along. This news did make it to the West, but was by no means the headline-grabber it was in the East - what had he done, if you didn't know? Take a few private photos of famous actresses in their underwear for his own "use" which were subsequently stolen and leaked to the public, thereby stalling not only his career but those of the actresses, which meant all of their performances were now being scrutinised for evidence that they were never any good in the first place.

If that really was the case, it was hard to tell from something as uninspired as this whether another actor in the role of OJ would have improved things, because it was difficult to keep interest levels high when the tone wavered between overly morose and bluffly macho. OJ and Hartman adopt a pupil and master relationship, but even that goes very few places when the former appears so intermittently, as meanwhile Lincoln sets up nests in high places and shoot any cops who might be trying to get on with their jobs, specifically his former colleagues. Love interest occasionally hoves into view, but all these actresses get short shrift when it was the manly men Lam was concentrating upon, and the mental anguish the lead players are going through fails to generate much interest, either in knowing so much was at stake or deepening the action sequences emotionally. Actually the overall mood was that of a bunch of cops feeling very sorry for themselves.

Aka: Sun cheung sau
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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