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The Sniper, or Sun cheung sau in its original Hong Kong release in 2009, is a tale of revenge whose story is centred around a team of police snipers that go head to head with a former colleague recently released from prison and on a mission to enact his own brand of justice.
The Sniper is a fairly standard action movie, one that’s really neither good nor bad. Richie Ren plays Hartman, the chief of the police sniper squad, and Xiaoming Huang plays Lincoln his former colleague bent on revenge. Principally the story explores the constantly competitive relationship between these two characters, often through exploratory flashback sequences. This non-linear narrative does help to try and keep your attention in what is quite a slow paced film outside of the action sequences.
Plot-wise it does feel like several aspects of the story are missing as relationships between Hartman and his wife and Lincoln and his girlfriend are shown briefly but not explored. The character of OJ, played by Edison Chen, is introduced as a hotheaded recruit caught between the differing styles of the two leads – again a relationship that seems somewhat underdeveloped. Plot inconsistencies abound. Why OJ would suddenly doubt Hartman, his superior, in favour of Lincoln, whom he only knows from rumour of his sniping prowess, isn’t really qualified. Also, Lincoln starts off seeming clear and reasoned in his revenge whereas in a later scene he’s depicted as hallucinating and being completely mentally unstable.
From the start the film exudes an almost unhealthy tendency towards macho gun worship. Certain lines of dialogue overtly romanticise the act of shooting, linking the gun to the heart. Things aren’t really helped by the constant and unnecessary amount of topless posing the snipers and recruits seem to engage in that borders on gun-based erotica. Some of the actors also seemed to subscribe to the James T. Kirk school of line delivery with fractured pauses breaking up natural dialogue flow.
Ignoring a couple of shocking CGI cut ins, the action is for the most part quite entertaining. The crowing achievement of which being the end sequence which is a shooting gallery style bloodbath, as fun as it is absurd, coming complete with an inspirational soundtrack that would make Rambo proud.
The movie is reasonably well shot but it does suffer from some severe editing during which presumably several of the previously mentioned story aspects ended up on the cutting room floor. In this way The Sniper certainly looses its way more than a couple of times with some disjointed scenes and entire subplots left unexplored. But if you overlook that and are a fan of Asian cinema or gun toting action movies then The Sniper might be for you.
5 out of 10 – points given for the decent action scenes, others taken for the murky plot development
The Sniper is out on DVD March 12.