When you talk about Hong Kong Action films there’s really only one film director that’s synonymous with that nation’s action genre, that’s Dante Lam. He is responsible for bringing some of the best action flicks the past few years from The Beast stalker, Stool Pigeon, Fire of Conscience 3 films that have put the region firmly on the map. However his latest release has had a long hard road to been released, unfortunately making the news in Asia for the wrong reasons, that film is The Sniper (Sun Cheung Sau).
Starring Richie Ren, Edison Chen, Huang Xiamong The Sniper follows the story of ex-Hong Kong Police sharpshooter Lincon (Xiamong) recently released for an alleged manslaughter of a kidnapper during a hostage situation. He now has one thing on his mind that’s revenge on those who put him behind bars with fellow marksman Hartman (Ren) been at top of the list, who he believes withheld key evidence which would have led to his acquittal. Lincon plans to draw out his prey by setting up the biggest heist the city has ever seen.
Meanwhile, hot-headed rookie OJ (Chen) has now joined Hartman’s team and is already showing the same level of skills in a shooting that made Lincon the legend he is today. OJ becomes more and more fascinated in Lincon, Hartman becomes concerned OJ may begin to evaluate his former teammate’s cavalier attitude towards the job at hand. As the day of the heist comes things start to look too familiar to Lincon he starts to re-enact the operation that sealed his fate which builds up to an ultimate showdown between the 3 snipers Lincon, Hartman and OJ.
The Sniper will probably be remembered mostly as the delayed film down to Edison Chen sex scandal pictures rather than been another Dante Lam film. As a result Chen has found much of his screen time cut and lying on the editing suite floor, OJ’s character went from the main character to a secondary character with an important part to the film’s conclusion. With these cuts the film now has a bare minimum 90 minute playing time which may please some people Chen is not on the screen as much as he wishes he was, however, others will be disappointed that now the film doesn’t really have a balanced character story.
On a positive note with it’s stripped down story line you can now sit back and enjoy the action which is the big winner here. The action is exciting at times especially one brilliant intense lift scene which is claustrophobic, spills into the apartment block which becomes an all out war with fists replaced by guns, this is the high octane scenes you expect to see in a Hong Kong action film.As for the other scenes, many are well staged but are let down by the dull scenes in between, half finished character stories that lead you so far and give up before you reach the finishing line. It was like they went through a few rounds at the Sniper’s shooting alley but in reality there another victim to Chen’s bad boy antics.
The Sniper may not be blessed with originality but the technical aspects of the film are very good, glossy at times making the film feel at times like a clichéd Hollywood action flick.This is a film that you’ll watch for the action but nothing more or unless your a fan of Dante Lam‘s films which means you’ll buy this as your a collector, to others this will simply be a decent filler film as we wait for the arrival of Lam’s latest film to arrive on these shores, The Viral Factor.
★★★ |Paul Devine
Action, Crime | Hong Kong, 2009 | 15 | 12th March 2012 (UK) | Chelsea Films | Dir.Dante Lam | Richie Ren,Huang Xiamong, Edison Chen | Buy Sniper, the on DVD