This sluggish, overlong Hong Kong “action” movie from NEW POLICE STORY director Benny Chan can be summed up in two words, epic misfire. It features a cast of lightweight stars from Hong Kong’s Brat Generation™ (aka the Bad Hair Generation) performing some of their worst overacting to date, laughably exaggerated and gimmicky action sequences and a script from hell that mashes a collection of overused action movie conventions into two hours of excruciating boredom and unintended humor.
Longtime readers should know I’m not prone to exaggeration. I don’t say this lightly. If Hong Kong’s film industry was actually in a healthy state, Benny Chan’s career would have effectively ended the day this movie was released to theaters. Better yet, Chan’s license to film would have been revoked after releasing GEN-X COPS (1999) and the world would have been spared a decade of high-profile Hong Kong films ranging from mediocre to the travesty that INVISIBLE TARGET is.
For his plot, Chan shamelessly cannibalizes better action movies including HEAT, A BETTER TOMORROW, DIE HARD, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, DRAGON SQUAD, and even his own NEW POLICE STORY to assemble a confusing and rambling mess involving rogue cops (played by Shawn Yue and Nicholas Tse) who team up with a fellow officer who plays by the rules (Jaycee Chan) in order to bring down a gang responsible for an explosive armored car heist. How this all plays out is a complete disaster of Michael Bay-sized proportions.
Each of the lead characters has his own issues that provide only the thinnest of excuses for them to have motivation to do anything. The gang’s leader, played by KILL ZONE star Jacky Wu Jing, lost the heist money during a getaway and now wants it back. Tse lost his girlfriend when the gang blew up the armored car. Shawn Yue wants to get back at the gang for making him literally crap bullets. Jaycee Chan hopes to find his brother, another cop who went undercover to expose the gang but is now missing. As Wu Jing’s ruthless underling, Andy On secretly wishes he was a good guy.
The casting, when taking in supporting and bit roles, almost made me think I was watching Universe’s WING CHUN TV series all over again (I wish I had been too). In addition to Tse, other series actors make appearances including Philip Ng, Candy Liu, Anson Leung, and Tommy Yuen. Unrelated to the series, Aaron Kwok makes an odd cameo as Jaycee Chan’s deceased father in a family photo.
It would take hours to explain everything that is wrong with the script so I won’t bother except to say that pacing is way off, characters are uninteresting, clichés are so commonly used they overlap, and dialogue is embarrassingly bad. For example, in a moment of regretful self analysis that follows efforts to kill Jaycee Chan and blow up a bus full of children, Andy On says, “I’m a bad guy. I can’t change that.” Wow. That’s profound.
Honestly, I laughed through the last 45 minutes of “tension” and “adrenaline pumping” action. Unbelievably, the movie just keeps getting worse. It’s like a band of amateur musicians having a really bad gig that starts off-key and just deteriorates from there. The thing is, no one seems to have figured out how ridiculous Benny Chan’s movie was from the start and so everyone tries their hardest to see a really bad vision materialize. As proof, outtakes in the end credits show Nicholas Tse, who I credit for being a trooper if not a very good actor or screen fighter, performing his own dangerous and obviously painful stunts. Tse, and no doubt some of his co-stars and crew members, worked way too hard on this movie. A house with attractive wall paper and a sound roof means nothing if the foundation is bad. Know what I mean Vern?
Let’s talk action. The potential saving grace of INVISIBLE TARGET is its plentiful action sequences that incorporate lots of martial arts fighting, gunplay and explosions. Unfortunately, they also incorporate excessive wire use, unreal pyrotechnics (live or digital matters not), way too much sugar glass breakage, and cast members who are not even remotely convincing screen fighters. Did I mention the film has way too much sugar glass breakage? Nearly every action sequence has glass shattering, exploding or impaling someone. Let me respond by borrowing a classic line from DIE HARD when good old John McClane (Bruce Willis) states, “Glass? Who gives a shit about glass?”
Jacky Wu Jing and Andy On are the only actors in the crowd who should be lifting a fist or leg against anyone else. Actually, I’ll include Philip Ng who is miscast as a whimpering, blonde-haired crony of Wu Jing. He gave a decent action performance in WING CHUN and deserves a better role. I see potential in him to eclipse the so-called stars of this movie. Likewise, Ken Lo is also miscast in a bizarre comedic cop role that could have been filled by anyone. What a disgrace.
As for Tse and Yue, it doesn’t matter what these guys do on screen. They have no power or form. You can’t fake that unless you at least have some meat on your bones to suggest you’re throwing some real weight around. They fight like girls and I’m not talking about Michelle Yeoh or CHOCOLATE star JeeJa Yanin. Brooding, smug stares and thin stubble facial hair are no substitute for naturally exuding the confident movements that come from really knowing what you’re doing or being a good enough physical actor to fake it. Speaking of female fighters more impressive than the male leads in this movie, a mention should be made of Wang Xue-mei, a fighting actress who gives Shawn Yue more than a little trouble. This appears to be her film debut and although it’s a small role with no real dialogue, her screen fighting is good enough to make her someone to keep an eye on.
The wire use that AD Nicky Li applies is the worst aspect of the action. It’s like ROMEO MUST DIE times 10. Virtually no reaction is shot without hoisting or pulling a stunt actor’s body around unnaturally. It’s absurd. Every time someone gets kicked while lying down their body has to slide at least two feet across the floor. I could live with this if that’s all we had to put up with. But no, we have to see the actors making all sorts of hyper-realistic jumps and falls. It’s like a cartoon version of DISTRICT B13, a film that has its own problems but at least had impressive free running. If INVISIBLE TARGET is Hong Kong’s answer to parkour then it’s time to pack up and go home.
The height of ineptitude for this movie is when Benny Chan decides to show Nicholas Tse falling down stairs twice, you know, ONG BAK style. The instant reply in a movie looks bad even when we’re witnessing a genuinely impressive stunt by Tony Jaa, arguably the world’s best screen fighter at the moment, but turns into complete parody when we have to see an overrated talent make a couple rolls down a staircase twice.
The most impressive stunt that INVISIBLE TARGET offers is Jacky Wu Jing peeling an apple while delivering his lines and they didn’t even get that right. I really wanted to see him peel that whole apple in one take and they cut to a side view before he was even half way done. Cheap.
For humor, Benny Chan has Yue, Tse and Jaycee engage in a little three-way shirtless body massaging following a brawl, only to be discovered by Chan’s mother in an intentionally awkward moment. It’s part of a running gag about Chan’s sexual preference that just doesn’t work. Toss in a dirty old man, speed this scene up on home video and you can rename the director Benny Hill.
INVISIBLE TARGET is one of the worst mainstream action movies from Hong Kong that I’ve had to endure since THE TWINS EFFECT 2, coincidently Jaycee Chan’s acting debut. I do not blame son of Jackie for his overacting or failure to match up to his father’s physical ability. He should not have to endure that pressure and I hope he doesn’t. Honestly, I think he shows a lot of potential for dramatic acting, more so than his father and I hope that he steers away from genre filmmaking and goes for more challenging acting gigs like THE DRUMMER. In addition, I believe that most of the actors in this movie have more potential in one form or another. They were largely mismanaged. I’m putting the blame squarely on Benny Chan for being a lousy director. I’m usually not so direct in my criticism but this movie got under my skin. It annoyed me in ways that only mosquitoes, screaming infants and mouthy cable news pundits do. There are four things I would like to see less of from Hong Kong; ensemble casts of “Gen-X” actors who never seem to grow up, bad hairdos, massacres of police officers by smug COMMANDO-like villains, and obvious wirework in a non-fantasy urban action movie. If Benny Chan retired from filmmaking, it just might happen.REVIEW: Invisible Target (2007),
explosion • gallery • glass • Invisible Target (2007) • Nicky Li • Philip Ng • police • wirework • Wu Jing