Judge Gordon Sullivan notes that fisticuffs and fire don't mix.
I don't watch many Hong Kong action films, but when I do I expect cops, corruption, explosions, and an excess of flying fists. Invisible Target (a title which is, unsurprisingly, never explained) offers all of the above in a gorgeously shot package. Although some minor problems keep it from the upper echelon of all-time action greats, Invisible Target is worth a viewing with this fantastic two-disc set.
Facts of the Case
Detective Chan Chun (Nicholas Tse, Robin-B-Hood), Inspector Carson Fong (Shawn Yue, Infernal Affairs), and Officer Wai King Ho (Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie) all have a grudge against a gang of seven mercenaries led by Tien Yeng Seng (Jacky Wu, Kill Zone). The gang pulled off a robbery that had an impact on the lives of the gang and the police. When the gang returns to town six months later, they set in motion a plot of revenge that will encompass the robbers, three police officers, and the mastermind behind the robbery (who may be a police officer himself).
Invisible Target sells itself as a full-blown action flick, with all the fighting and shooting that entails. This claim is bolstered by an impressive collection of set pieces strewn throughout the film's 130 minute runtime. Just when I'd gotten tired of seeing fistfights in liquid, like oil or water, director Benny Chan goes and lights the liquid on fire, creating an impressive background for his martial arts beatdown. While flame-filled fisticuffs might be the inventive highlight of the film, the action doesn't stop there. We also get several more fist and gun fights throughout Hong Kong with some impressive stunt chops thrown in. Chases are likewise in evidence, with an impressive foot chase that culminates in a pitched battle inside a moving cab, as well as a rooftop rally that ends in a couple of bone-shattering falls.
Because Invisible Target sold itself so well as an action movie, I was surprised by the amount and depth of the drama that supports the thundering set pieces. All three of the film's main characters are well-drawn, with ample time devoted to each of their motives for vengeance. Even more impressive is the film's decision to give the villains an equally complex motivation, which sets up the main plot and gives it a measure of suspense. Yes, it was fairly easy to guess who the mastermind was, but there were still a surprising number of suspenseful moments as the narrative unfolded.
Although the action is the highlight of Invisible Target, the film was also host to a number of excellent performances, especially those by the three leads. Jaycee Chan does his father's legacy proud with a turn as the goodhearted but innocent young officer. Nicholas Tse is equally effective as the brooding and bitter vengeance seeker. He sells the unhinged aspect of his character, as well as the depth of his feelings for his deceased bride-to-be. Shawn Yue plays the most mysterious of the three characters, and his charming, close to the vest portrayal is interesting to watch. Needless to say, all three are convincing when the fists start flying. Unusual, in my experience, is the absence of any significant female roles. We get a single female robber and a female intelligence officer, but neither get much screen time. This is a guys' film through and through.
Dragon Dynasty has pulled out all the stops with this two-disc Ultimate Edition. Starting with a top-notch audiovisual presentation, they also throw in a second disc full of interesting extras.
The video on this disc looks fantastic. Despite the length of the film and rendering difficulties presented by elements like explosions, Invisible Target is free of print and compression problems. The Cantonese audio track lacked a little of the bottom-end oomph I would have expected, but it had no trouble with all the noise and dialogue. The subtitles were also clear and easy to follow, with no long gaps or garbled sentences.
While the target may be invisible, the supplements on these two discs are not. On the first disc we get a commentary by a number of the actors (with moderator Bey Logan) as well as a making of documentary. The commentary is a relaxed affair, as Bey prods each of the actors to reveal their experiences filming Invisible Target. When the actors are quiet, Bey fills in the gaps by discussing the history of Hong Kong cinema. All the participants can be overwhelming, but it's a strong track. The documentary is standard fare, featuring lots of clips, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with the cast and crew. My favorite part was learning the original title (The Core of Men), although some of the shots of Hong Kong ran a close second.
The second disc is divided up into interviews, deleted and extended scenes, and featurettes. The interviews are substantial, and include more input from director Benny Chan, as well as discussions with most of the main actors in the film. The deleted and extended scenes flesh out the already long movie, and feature comments by the director. He discusses the meaning and purpose of the scenes, as well as why they were cut. The first of the featurettes covers the action of Invisible Target, with a good look at the stunts and effects. The second is a standard storyboard comparison, while the third focuses on the premiere of the film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I have no doubt that Invisible Target is an above-average action film. However, I am less sure about what keeps the film from being a great action flick. Part of it is certainly the long runtime. At over two hours, the film feels a little bloated and drags just a little bit in between plot points. Another issue is certainly the presence of three main characters. The need to treat all of them equally slows things down a little and doesn't allow the audience to get behind a single protagonist.
Invisible Target is the kind of Hong Kong action film that knows its strengths, delivering an interesting plot and loads of violence. Although it can't be included in the ranks of the great HK films, action fans are encouraged to give this film a shot. This overflowing Ultimate Edition set from Dragon Dynasty makes Invisible Target an easy recommendation.
I'm not sure how you say it in Cantonese, but Invisible Target is not guilty.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
• Audio Commentary with Actors Jaycee Chan, Shawn Yue, Andy On, and Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
Review content copyright © 2008 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.