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October 2010

Invisible Target

cast: Nicholas Tse, Jaycee Chan, Shawn Yue, Jacky Wu, and Andy On

director: Benny Chan

125 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Cine Asia / Dragon Dynasty
DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
review by Donald Morefield

Invisible Target

A cop's fianc�e is killed during a heist by super-slick robbers; a gang whose activities have already made them a scourge of the golden triangle's Interpol forces. A na�ve young uniformed beat cop won't believe his brother is a crooked detective, insisting that his older sibling is just working deep undercover within the gang wanted for theft and murder. The partner of the grieving and now vengeful cop mediates between these polarised moralities: one who's always looking for the good in people and wanting to help others, while his opposite is hell-bent on vengeance and seems self-destructive.

Invisible Target (aka: Naam yi boon sik) offers a medley of familiar Hong Kong action-movie themes. It's a well above average production that draws its influences from The Matrix, Die Hard, and Michael Mann's Heat. There are hyper-kinetic chase sequences, including wire fu stunts, which match the pace and energy of the best free-running parkour escapades. The film's dramatic viewpoints explore a moral spectrum to show us that not all cops are just, and not every killer is inhuman.

Its range of genre tones skips lightly between comedy-adventure, realistic shootouts, and fantastical wire fu antics. There are moments of broad humour such as the gross embarrassment of a hospitalised cop who painfully shits out the bullets that he was forced to swallow in a street fight. A gang rumble in a restaurant brings together the heroes like a three musketeers of the martial arts world - followed by macho bonding after the fighting's over, while comparing bruises and grazes, that turns into a comedic homoerotic scene.

A fake schizoid from the gang, who is held in an asylum, escapes from the madhouse with his accomplices, prompting a car chase which ends when a school bus is hijacked by gunmen. The cops who are coerced into collecting a big ransom pay-off, on behalf of these villains, race against fate in order to negate the gang's plot and rescue captive kids from a time-bomb. The plot's big revelation, pace the Infernal Affairs trilogy, is that a mastermind behind the gang is actually a high-ranking cop, and the climax sees �ber-competent baddies infiltrate a police station HQ for a prolonged shoot-out.

Although the acting here is variably effective or merely adequate, the direction is very good indeed, with kung fu and gun-battle sequences that are practically non-stop and all of a high standard. The fact is that if this Asian movie had been a Hollywood effort, it would probably be hailed as 'an instant classic', and been heavily promoted enough to become an international success. Its larger than life characters, and varied settings for perfectly judged action scenes, make it hugely entertaining, proving yet again that Hong Kong style pictures can easily match, and often surpass, American blockbusters in terms of thrills and stunts, and character-based jokiness.

If you're tired of the over-hyped nonsense that's coming out of Hollywood nowadays, give this a try. It's got plenty of heart, so it's not just soulless action - despite director Benny Chan's obvious fondness for turning explosive gunfights into comicbook style fun, and even the most recognisable plot riffs - with subgenre borrowings from varied sources, feel vigorously refreshed here - if not quite new-minted - in the framing and camera angles, and dramatic execution. In short, this is strongly recommended if you like eclectic action cinema at its most frenetic and consistently amusing.

DVD extras include: an Orchestrated Mayhem documentary, a Fight For The Glory behind-the-scenes featurette, some interviews, deleted scenes, storyboards, trailers, and the obligatory commentary track with three actors plus genre expert Bey Logan.



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