I can vaguely remember, if at all, Derek Yee's Double Tap starring Alex Fong and the late Leslie Cheung in lead roles, but don't let that stop you from watching this quasi-sequel Triple Tap, which continues with Fong in a supporting role, backing up the leads Daniel Wu and Louis Koo, both of whom had collaborated with Yee in a number of recent films, such as Protege and Shinjuku Incident, both which continue to provide that steady stream of well made Hong Kong crime films (even with the latter shot in Japan) to the cinema, with great production values and tight narratives to continue surpassing demanding audience expectations.
If you approach Triple Tap with the mindset eager to witness rote and numbing action about sharpshooters and crackshots, then this film is not for you, and you can stick to films like Sniper instead. Triple Tap boasts a multi-facted, psychological thriller which has plenty to offer as it twists and turns about character motivations, and even when you'd expect things to be forced to a corner having shown hand with its critical revelation, it still has enough in its tank to spring up a surprise or two, and more amazingly, making you care for the outcome of the characters, getting you to emotionally invest heavily in them.
The first hour with its sprawling narrative and themes tackled will set you thinking just about how the film will rocket past its buildup and into the finale. There's a sharpshooter's competition at a gun club, where Daniel Wu's cop character Chang had assailed to the top of the standings despite slight hesitation at the final obstacle, only to have his joy cut shot when Louis Koo's Ken, a hot shot forex trader, pip him to the summit through a confident showcase with flair, and a triple tap to boot at the same obstacle that tripped Chang up. I'm not sure I've seen those handguns before, but even if they look gimmicky, they still do pack a punch.
Which leads in very nicely to the root premise of the film, where a high stakes armoured vehicle robbery by a gang of thugs turn awry with inside jobs and mistrust dripping amongst the conspirators, to be thwarted by Ken, as a private citizen utilizing his competition gun to engage in a shootout with the robbers who had executed the security guards and about to take the life of a traffic policeman who responded to the scene of the crime. I'm pretty certain if the something similar were to happen in Singapore, you can bet that he'll likely be hailed as a hero who had stopped a crime and prevented the death of a civil servant, yet will be caught in the web of technicalities with a citizen having used a handgun to kill. I'm not sure how it'll play out here, but it sure will not be pretty.
This allowed for the film to debate about moral ethics and justice, and presented the case for and against with some courtroom drama thrown in as well which will feature in post-film screening discussions amongst friends. As you can tell, those looking for action will be sorely disappointed, as Triple Tap goes beyong just the average action flick, to examine the basic greed of man, with interesting nuggets of dialogue about illegal money lending activities, and scenes that focused on the recent financial meltdown, coverups and such from the perspective of an individual, not to mention moments where man pits against man in a psychological battle of wits.
And all these within the first hour, which left me impressed as Derek Yee neither overwhelms you into thinking he doesn't have a plan to get out of this narrative mess, since everything gets explained and addressed in due course, and by the time the final reel came along, all the cards fell into their rightful place, save a minor loophole or two that can be conveniently glossed over unless you're that stickler to scrutinize.
What I utterly enjoyed about the film is how the leading characters are multi-dimensional in their roles, to reinforce that the film is about dilemmas. For instance, the subconsciousness of a cop who failed to allow good sense to prevail when dealing with a suspect who had earlier beaten him in a competition, concerned with how he himself will be generally perceived should he pursue an arrest. It's a damned if you do or you don't situation with an ally or friend to be made, or an adversary unwillingly formed. The dilemma earlier as discussed where one has to decide whether to use force to counter life-and-death threats in a split second, and once done, to ponder about whether the right thing was done, and on whose moral grounds this assessment will be made?
The final dilemma presented will be that which has to justify having two female supporting roles with Charlene Choi as the simple nurse that Ken falls in love with, and Li Bing Bing as the alpha-female Anna Shaw, the VP of the private investment company that Ken works in, with her explicit infatuation with Ken being the reason behind his meteoric rise in the company, one where he has to trade dignity for material wealth, with the condition attached that he has to eventually leave his loved one. I suppose being caught in this situation with two women in your life, who you're ending up with will likely depend on the character that you are, or wish to become. A good problem to have though, if you ask me.
Rounding up the supporting cast are actors in bit roles, such as Chapman To as the mysterious man who had escaped from the botched heist, Lam Suet as a man succumbing to greed, brought about by circumstance involving the economic downturn, and Michael Wong in a blink and you miss role as a shady investment trader. Alex Fong also makes that appearance as the mentor cum guru whom Chang turns to for advice, and I thought this was a nice touch to link up with its predecessor. Not all's doom and gloom in the film of course, though the obvious signs of comedy here in a scene between Louis Koo and Chapman To, has really exasperating undertones.
An engaging storyline, some nice set action pieces, and great performances by Daniel Wu and Louis Koo, two actors who I am of the opinion that they are improving by leaps and bounds with each film, makes Triple Tap an entry worthy for contention into my top films for this year. Derek Yee has once again proved that he can craft a taut thriller, and Triple Tap is testament once more to that.