Monday, July 16, 2007

Invisible Target (Nan Er Ben Se)

Band of Angry Men

There's nothing invisible about the target in Benny Chan's latest movie Invisible Target. And in actuality, it seems that the constant target for everyone in the movie here, be they the bad guys or the good cops, are the plenty of glass lying around, getting smashed into smithereens by hurled projectiles, or more frequently, human bodies. See that nice looking glass window? It'll be smashed soon. Or that double panel glass facade? Yup, as soon as you notice it, the next scene will show it in a million bits on the floor with a writhing body. It could be aptly titled Glass Target.

But don't get me wrong. Invisible Target is still enjoyable, in that it brings to you the flavour of a typical Hong Kong action movie, with Benny Chan at the helm. As we slowly get nauseated by the frequent mole versus mole plots that Hong Kong crime thrillers formula usually adopted (no thanks to the success of you know what), I thought Invisible Target was reminiscent about an old John Woo movie Hard Boiled, except that it's minus the guns, and instead you get plenty of fisticuffs. A similarly long drawn out ending was a little too tedious to sit through, though it had its fair share of big bangs and segmented action sequences which tried hard to hold your attention. Teahouses remain perfect locales for fights to break out (as in Hard Boiled), and here, it serves as a male bonding moment for our three heroic cops Chan Chun (Nicholas Tse), Fong Yik-wei (Shawn Yue) and Jaycee Chan's Wai King-ho.

But in between the action, are the woefully painful monologues that the villain Tien Yeng-seng (Wu Jing) and his merry gang of 7 (which includes Andy On as brother Yeng-yee) dish out, trying to philosophize their actions as "I'm a villain so I kill", and about justice-injustice in the world. Wu Jing again never disappoints, as he has this charismatic aura around him which doesn't dissipate when he whups everyone's rear, hard! We've seen what he can do in SPL, now watch him do that with double the speed and intensity, and on thrice the number of victims. If anything, Invisible Target is a Wu Jing movie, and one in which I'm not surprised if many actually throw their weight of support behind him. It's a movie that the villain outshines the heroes easily.

With three distinct cops, Invisible Target actually spends a considerable amount of time introducing them one by one. Nicholas' Chan is always brooding, and a reckless one in that he's mourning the loss of his fiancee. He's out to get Tien because she happened to be collateral damage. Shawn's Fong is arrogant, until he's made to eat lead (in a scene you have to see to believe) by Tien, and his bruised ego says he must take the villain down. And Jacycee's Wai is probably the wimpiest of the lot, being a by-the-books street cop who's investigating the disappearance of his brother (do a double take on that cameo!), who might have fallen into Tien's hands. It's no doubt too that all of them are skilled in martial arts, and at any time would prefer to holster their weapons.

Nicholas and Shawn are no newcomers to action, having starred together in recent movies like Dragon Tiger Gate, and thank goodness they've ditched their long locks in that movie for contemporary shorter crop here. And while the two of them are relatively old hands in the industry, I can't help but wince each time Jaycee is on screen. For starters, he's the son of the legendary Jackie Chan, and in Invisible Target, I can't help picture it's a younger Jackie being beaten, battered and bruised. It didn't help that his character, the most naive and innocent of the lot, is in total contrast to the classic cop characters his father portrayed, and I surely think it was deliberate that he remains the least buff of the lot, with many goody-two-shoes scenes occasionally played out for comedy, or to reinforce that he's basically a cut above the rest of the good cops in terms of having a good natured character. Characters like his are hard to come by in an age where grittier cinematic cops roam the street.

So while big brothers Nicholas and Shawn get some fantastical set action pieces to show off their mettle, Jaycee got the shorter end of the stick by being quite a deadweight at times. Oh, and what of Elanne Kwong's role? Sadly there isn't too much for a pretty lass to do since her character Leung works in the Police Intelligence department, and doesn't get directly involved when the going gets tough. A typical flower vase role unfortunately, for a combined screen time of less than 5 minutes.

Pretty Lass Elanne Kwong, I Still Support You!

Despite its reliance on hard hitting action dished out by the actors themselves, and in all purpose are as realistic as they look with the obvious wire work seen in the trailers drastically reduced, a few noticeable continuity errors marred the enjoyment of the movie at times. Invisible Target had all the ingredients for a classic action movie, but the run time of more than 2 hours was due to an overindulgence with the slower moments which were fused with a couple of "I'm a cop" moments, and feel good messages rammed down your throat.

And what do you know, Invisible Target still can't shake off the mole versus mole type plotline, unfortunately. If it could have been a little more compact, and gotten to the point faster than it did, it would have been a tad more enjoyable, given the wealth of cameo/supporting talent at its disposal, like Sam Lee (Dog Bite Dog) and the evergreen Lam Suet, rather than feel the need to tie up all the loose subplots it introduced, and exposing some technical loopholes in some action sequences.

P.S. I attended the press junket for Invisible Target way back in March 21 this year as part of the HK Film Art. You can read about the proceedings of that junket by clicking on the logo below:

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