“Invisible Target” – A.J. Hakari

You know when an action movie shows you the same explosion a couple of times, all just for the hell of it? Invisible Target is prone to many an occasion where director Benny Chan shows you a particularly dangerous stunt, then goes over it a few more times, just to show the audience that, oh yeah, they just did that. But while such moments are arbitrary and redundant about ninety percent of the time, the other ten percent comprises flicks like Invisible Target, which serves up enough consistent and hard-hitting action sequences to earn the right to a handful of its own instant replays.

On a bright, busy morning in the heart of the city, ruthless thief Seng (Wu Jing) and his gang of six fellow crooks commit a daring armored car robbery. The troupe vanishes not long after the heist, but six months later, Seng and company re-emerge in order to claim the loot that was stolen from them before they went into hiding. Seng’s return piques the interest of the authorities, including three cops in particular, each of whom shares a connection with the fiend. Chun (Nicholas Tse) is a sullen detective still haunted by memories of his fiance, who was killed in the midst of Seng’s heist. Fong (Shawn Yue) is a badass lawman whose reputation becomes tarnished when a run-in with Seng’s crew leaves him literally biting the bullet. Then there’s Ho (Jaycee Chan, Jackie’s son), a fresh-faced patrolman brought into the mix because of his estranged brother’s possible involvement with the gang of thieves. Each men has a reason to want to see Seng taken down, and they combine forces to do so, a wise choice considering how formidable a foe the vicious and resourceful Seng turns out to be.

In the tradition of the finest Hong Kong action cinema, Invisible Target hardly has a plot to its name and carries a melodramatic streak as wide as the Grand Canyon. Yet it all works out in the end, because the filmmakers never lose sight of one thing: the action is the flick’s real star. As far as story goes, Invisible Target is pretty standard cops-and-robbers material. There’s not much depth or motivation explored beyond “three good guys go after one bad guy,” and at a length of two hours plus change, there are moments when the already thin material is stretched pretty much to the breaking point. Even the lead characters read like an evolutionary chart of action heroes: the wet-behind-the-ears rookie, the hard-nosed antihero with a grudge to bear, and the one-man army who doesn’t care how much public property gets destroyed in the name of bringing down criminal scum.

But at the same time, the actors have such fun performing what would otherwise be mundane genre duties, you can’t fault Invisible Target for being a little on the cliched side. The cast knows their material isn’t the greatest in the world, but they have the good sense to bring loads of energy to the table and have a grand ol’ time in the process. The three leads bring their own individual flair to their parts, and after playing the almost saintly do-gooder in Fatal Contact, it’s great to see Wu Jing relish his role as the flick’s merciless main baddie. In any case, the emphasis here is on the action, and in that department, Chan and company can’t be faulted for shorting viewers on the goods. Invisible Target starts off with a bang and never looks back, beginning the film with an explosive daylight robbery and throwing a few tight chases and fights in the mix on its way to the climax, which comes to about 40 minutes of non-stop brawls and beatings, as the three cops make their final stand against Seng. A bit too much, yes, but Chan always manages to keep the intense action on the side of entertaining over exhausting.

Invisible Target may not go down as a martial arts classic, but for as long as it lasts, it’s a pretty damn exciting ride. The action is crisp, as is the sense of danger (the actors are doing their own dangerous stunts, after all), which is more than I can say for some of the festivals of CGI currently clogging up a multiplex near you.

Rating: ★★★☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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