Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

After watching Marky Mark standing on a row boat with his scoped rife in a hurricane, calculate the physics necessary and shoot somebody two states over in the action flick ‘Shooter’ I know that the sniper is one bad mofo. Tragically we here in America knows what happens when a sniper goes bad, i.e., The University of Texas, Washington D.C… but this shouldn’t stop anyone from making action flicks about a sniper gone bad which takes us to Hong Kong and director Dante Lam’s action flick appropriately named ‘Sniper’ which is a shaky mix of solid action and missing story elements to that adds up to a fun but confusing time at the show.

Richie Ren is top sniper boss Hartman Fong and during a routine surveillance gig Hartman and his partner Shane (Bowie Lam) observe some cops get themselves in some trouble. One of these cops would be the precocious O.J. (Edison Chen) who impresses Hartman due to his lack of hesitation in taking a head shot to take out a perp. To me this makes O.J. seem pathological but to Hartman this makes an ideal candidate for Sniper School.

So O.J. goes through rigorous training with his sights set on being the best sniper ever. His boss Hartman is a little concerned about O.J. because the arrogant hot head reminds him a little bit of a former colleague of Hartman’s named Lincoln (Xiaoming Huang). Just like O.J., Lincoln didn’t listen much, thought he was better than he actually was and believed his way was the best way. Lincoln’s arrogance got him kicked off the force and locked away for four years but now he’s out and he's pissed. Lincoln doesn’t believe he did anything wrong and he holds Hartman personally responsible for ruining his career and keeping him away from his new bride for four years.

Lincoln is so pissed at the HKPD that he has teamed up with noted gangster Big Head (Kai Chi Lui) to rain terror on the city, the police and the sniper team specifically. It’s pretty clear to the cops that Big Head has a Sniper on his team and it’s pretty clear to Hartman that the only sniper with the skill to do what this sniper is doing is the recently freed Lincoln. Eventually, to the surprise of no one, this is going to boil down to a sniper showdown. Yeah, Lincoln might be the best that ever was but what Hartman needs on his team is someone with Lincoln’s skill but also the common sense to follow his superior wisdom. Where would Hartman find such an individual? Dialing up one disgraced movie star.

Anyone who watches movies out of the Mainland or Hong Kong with any kind of regularity knows that actor Edison Chen is in a heap of doo doo. Without knowing the particulars behind this movie ‘Sniper’ I’m guessing that Edison Chen’s personal foolishness is one of the reasons that this movie has such a disjointed narrative. Under normal circumstances Chen would’ve been the main draw in this movie but the poster and billing have moved him down to third billing and I’m also guessing that a lot of the scenes that he shot for this movie were left on the cutting room floor with Dante Lam keeping in just enough so that his film could be somewhat coherent, if not completely coherent. There was scene between Chen and his illegal minded father that also included a scene with his characters girlfriend which was set up as if it were going to be a whole separate plot thread but that would be those characters only appearance in this movie. I don’t even know why they included that single scene in this movie since it doesn’t really give us much of anything in the way of building the character or adding to the story. It’s almost as Lam left that one scene in the movie as if to say ‘See… See what you did to my movie!’

There was also another odd relationship story line between the Hartman character and his suicidal ex-wife which, again, I don’t know what that was supposed to do for us in relation to the character or what in the heck it meant to the movie over all. Lincoln’s character and the relationship he had with his wife made logical sense and helped the movie, unlike the other completely disposable, albeit good looking, female characters in this film.

But of course the movie is called ‘Sniper’ and not ‘Confusing Relationships’ and to that end the gun play and gun fights were excellent. If you have some kind of aversion to watching people get shot in the movies with extra large caliber bullets then this is not the movie for you. People get shot in the legs, in the arms, in the gut, in the head… if there’s a spot in the body that is susceptible to a bullet wound, they absorb it this movie. Xioming Huang’s character of Lincoln was by far the most interesting character in the movie and he also gave the best performance, possibly in part because I guess he had the fewest scenes in the movie with Edison Chen so most of his story line was left intact but also because he’s a fine actor. It didn’t take long for me to figure out his ‘deal’ as it were but his off kilter performance as the emotionally erratic Lincoln gave the action in this movie the edge it needed to keep this action interesting.

I could be wrong but I do think there is more to this movie than the audiences got to see, that we probably never will get to see. ‘Sniper’ was a palatable Hong Kong style action flick but somewhere I there I think there’s a much better, much more complete film floating around out there.

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