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Invisible Target

Jaycee Chan, Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, and Wu Jing.

Chinese: 男兒本色
Year: 2007
Director: Benny Chan Muk-Sing
Producer: Benny Chan Muk-Sing
Writer: Benny Chan Muk-Sing, Melody Lui Si-Lam, Ling Chi-Man
Action: Li Chung-Chi
Cast: Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung, Shawn Yue, Jaycee Chan, Wu Jing, Andy On Chi-Kit, Elanne Kong Yeuk-Lam, Dominic Lam Ka-Wah, Mark Cheng Ho-Nam, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Kenny Wong Tak-Bun, Lam Suet, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Philip Ng Won-Lung, Anson Leung Chun-Yat, Samuel Pang King-Chi, Tommy Yuen Man-On, Deep Ng Ho-Hong, Lisa Lu Yan
The Skinny: Benny Chan knows action, though the ability to handle story and character continues to escape him. Invisible Target is overlong and overcooked, and not always convincing. Still, for HK action seekers, it's thus far 2007's best bet.
by Kozo:

If ass-kicking is your thing, then Invisible Target is your movie. Directed by Benny Chan, Invisible Target promises energetic action and dangerous-looking stuntwork on a scale not seen since the heyday of Jackie Chan. The film delivers on that promise, though not without a few debits, most especially the use of CG, which erases wires and safety cables, and sometimes replaces people with digital dummies that can easily take a fifteen-story fall without croaking. The other debits are standard Benny Chan problems: canned melodrama, key reveals marred by overdone histrionics, and an inability to make the film's story and characters equal to the ass-kicking and pyrotechnics. Ultimately, Invisible Target isn't a very good film, but it delivers enough action and even humor to satisfy the masses. What it doesn't deliver is an interesting story, truly developed characters, or a conclusion that feels like anything other than obligatory. In other words, Invisible Target is a summer action movie fit for the multiplexes! Just check your brain at the door.

Nicholas Tse stars as Chan Chun, a loose-cannon cop who became so when his fiancée got offed during an armored car heist. She was shopping for their wedding rings in Central when the bad guys, led by Wu Jing and Andy On, blew up an armored car, which also took out the jewelry store she was shopping in. Six months laer, Chun is still upset, and takes out his frustrations on whichever perps cross his path. Nicholas Tse embodies Chun with ceaseless brimming emotion; it always seems like Chun is going to explode and either whup some ass or shed a few tears, and the film gives him ample opportunity to do both. Tse is a good enough actor to handle both the tears and the toughness with admirable finesse, and doesn't elicit laughs when he starts to weep. Still, this is an action movie, so it's preferable when Tse's exploding emotions lead to pulse-pounding foot chases or a flurry of flailing arms and fists. That stuff happens more often than not, so score one for Invisible Target there.

Chun obviously wants revenge, but the perps have eluded him. Luckily, the bad guys resurface, running into inspector Fong Yik-Wei (Shawn Yue), who pulls them over on a routine car check and proceeds to get served by the acrobatic kung-fu and unflinching cruelty of Tien Yeng-Seng (Wu Jing). Fong is pretty badass himself, and gets an introduction that most actors would kill for. Early on in the film, Fong drives up to a restaurant in his Ferrarri and proceeds to dismantle the entire place with his fists and feet, taking out half-a-dozen bad guys and breaking more glass than your average Jackie Chan film. The problem is Wei still isn't a match for Tien, and finds himself burning with anger after the humiliation. Shawn Yue is suitably coiled as Fong, and makes up for his character's lack of a compelling backstory with strong screen presence and cool charisma. In contrast to many young Hong Kong actors, Yu has both range and charisma, and can seemingly handle action, comedic, or dramatic roles with ease. However, in Invisible Target, there's only one goal: action. Yu does fine there. Notch another one for Invisible Target.

Since both Chun and Fong want Tien and his gang, they have to track him down, and the trail leads quickly to Wai King-Ho (Jaycee Chan, AKA Son of Jackie). Ho is a uniformed patrolman whose sense of righteousness and justice is so well developed that he might as well be a walking commercial for the police force. Ho is smarting because his fellow cop brother (who looks like Aaron Kwok in the photos) has disappeared, and is considered by some cops to have turned to the dark side. Supposedly, Ho's brother is connected to Tien Yeng-Seng and his gang of baddies, so after becoming pals over an entertaining restaurant rumble and a subsequent homoerotic ointment application, the trio of Chun, Fong, and Ho hop in a car and begin to pursue their leads. Soon, the mystery surrounding all the dangling plot threads begins unraveling with predictable efficiency. Before the film ends, each main cop will have their personal demons exorcised (though Fong's personal demon is just an insult to his manliness), plus the bad guys will be named, the reasons behind the lawlessness explained, and all the random, innocuous conversations conducted by seemingly minor supporting characters will suddenly be revealed to have great plot importance. It's almost like someone read a screenwriting manual.

Too bad they didn't read the chapter about how to make their script more convincing. The script (by Benny Chan and two other writers) is full of details connecting each cop to one another and also to perpetrators, and even features such common themes as brotherhood, righteousness, and how to be a good cop, i.e. you should arrest the bad guys and not pursue the "eye for an eye" thing. The themes do lend themselves to a few surprising emotional payoffs, some involving Jaycee Chan. The offspring of HK Cinema's real JC overacts sometimes, but his performance is sincere and likable, and works well for his innocent, neophyte cop role. Likewise, Wu Jing and Andy On make interesting bad guys, and are given plenty of backstory to flesh out their characters. In between the chases, there's some face-to-face dialogue between the cops and the killers, showing us that these aren't necessarily evil guys, but directed villains who have their reasons.

However, the reasons don't resonate. Benny Chan and company take great pains to explain everyone's issues, but the issues only tie to the plot in a perfunctory fashion. Too often we get soul-searching and key confrontations at unbelievable times, e.g. in the middle of a firefight, and some of it is so cheesy that it can be painful (at one point, one of the cops asks one of the bad guys, "Why can't you change?"). Ultimately, there isn't a reason that these characters need to be so damn pained. Sure, it gives everyone a personal stake, but it's hard to say that it makes the film that much more compelling. The actual plot, which involves stolen money and hurt feelings, is rather uninteresting and far from memorable. It's unnecessarily convoluted in that it attempts to tie every character in the film together, and by the time Invisible Target reaches the end of its protracted two hour-plus running time, it's questionable if the storyline will even matter to anyone in the audience.

Still, Gen-X Cops - which was also directed by Benny Chan and may be the blueprint for commercial HK police actioners like Invisible Target - didn't have much of a story either, but its high-concept premise made its story deficits much more digestible. Invisible Target is high concept in execution, but sometimes serious in intent. The filmmakers put lots of weight on the film's emotions and themes, but some are quite cheesy, and few really make the film better. Ultimately, it feels like the story in Invisible Target is connected entirely by contrivance. Characters conveniently bump into one another, plus they manage to show up in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, and it happens so often that everything starts to feel a bit unbelievable. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the blowout climax, which takes place at a massive police station infiltrated by Wu Jing and crew. Despite hundreds of cops milling about, the characters manage to find nice deserted areas for mano-a-mano knockdowns or soul-searching conversations, most of which are routine cop movie stuff. Benny Chan has always been one of Hong Kong's best commercial film directors, but his handling of story and character has seen little improvement over the years. Basically, it always feels like filler.

But thanks to the action, few people may really care about the filler. Invisible Target does the usual pop-star action vehicle better by actually putting its stars in harm's way. Nicholas Tse, especially, does plenty of his own stunts, including falling off buildings, falling down stairs, getting hit by buses, jumping over stuff, etc. The actor obviously has some help from wires, but the physicality and sheer energy on display is admirable. Shawn Yue and Jaycee Chan handle their share of danger too, either hitting people or getting hit convincingly. The trio get plenty of action opportunities, playing with knives, fire, explosives, and vehicles, all with the goal of delivering the season's biggest action spectacle. Give them credit, because it looks like they succeeded (Though maybe not for long; Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip's Flashpoint premieres soon). Action director Lee Chung-Chi previously worked with Benny Chan on both New Police Story and Rob-B-Hood, and though they don't have Jackie Chan's experience here, they do have something else: youth and energy. Really, it makes a difference.

Some of the supporting performances help, too. Mark Cheng and Lam Ka-Wah have their moments as two senior police officers, and it's nice to see Sam Lee and Lam Suet in nearly anything. Unfortunately, Benny Chan still cannot find a way to use his female characters; the highest-billed one here is newcomer Elanne Kong, who plays Shawn Yue's underdeveloped Girl Friday. However, one of Chan's best moves was convincing Wu Jing to return to the dark side for Invisible Target, and the actor is charismatic in his first post-SPL villain role. As expected, he also handles his action sequences impressively, and the filmmakers have the good sense not to pretend that Nicholas Tse could take Wu Jing in a fight. He'd need some help, and the film's solution to that problem is surprisingly affecting. But that occurs at the end of the film, and before that there are street chases, car chases, rooftop chases, gunplay, two brawls in restaurants, and more painful-looking impact than has been seen in a Hong Kong film in quite a while. Benny Chan and action director Lee Chung-Chi know action, and they deliver enough of it here, and in an exciting enough manner to make Invisible Target worthwhile for those needing their action fix. Invisible Target isn't a very good film, but is it fun? I think so. (Kozo 2007)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various extras

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

image courtesy of Universe Entertainment Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen