Moving Targets

Following in the large wake of the Infernal Affairs trilogy success, Hong Kong continues to churn out films that explore the world of cops and triads and the gray space in between them. Moving Targets is a fairly solid if quickly forgettable entry into this genre that is apparently based on an old TVB show from the 1980’s called Police Cadet that was a springboard for a number of young actors such as Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Carina Lau. This film too brings on board some of today’s young Turks – Nicholas Tse, Edison Chen and Gillian Chung - and throws them into this murky milieu of friendship, loyalty and corruption.
Director Wong Jing jumps right into it as four rookie cops – Tse, Chen, Roy Chow and Wu An – are having dinner together at an outdoor restaurant when a fierce gunfight breaks out between some bad guys and some cops and the boys are instantly in the middle of it and shoot a number of the crooks very dead. Commander Simon Yam is so impressed with their quick reaction that he immediately signs them up for his department. What he seemingly doesn’t know is that Tse is the son that he walked away from many years ago when he deserted Tse’s mother (Michelle Yam). Tse has the thankless role of being the hurt and rebellious son – constantly questioning his father’s ability and honor – though it is obvious to the viewer that Simon is the coolest and most righteous cop around. Tse soon transfers to Internal Affairs reporting to an ex-girlfriend (Shu Qao) of his fathers.
Edison is having his own difficulties – a top triad head (Kent Tong) and his younger brother (Roderick Lam) set him up by threatening his mother (Helen Poon) and his stepfather (Lam Suet) and then try to force Edison into becoming their mole on the inside. A situation arises in which Edison has to look the other way and he is soon bounced out of the force and working for Tong. His wife Gillian furrows her adorable brow and worries that her husband is going bad. At one point though she gives a nice little speech to Tse in which she basically says a man has to do what a man has to do even if death is the likely outcome. Other threads wind their way through this very busy plot and keep things from ever slowing down too much.
The main problem here is that Wong Jing is just trying to cram too much story into 90-minutes running time – the plot actually takes place over a year or two and none of the threads feel fully fleshed out nor do the characters take on much substance. To feel the impact of the tragic happenings that follow it's important that you care about their lives and I assume in the TV show they had plenty of time to build this and pull the viewer in, but here it feels like shorthand film making in which the audience is expected to fill in the missing character and relationship gaps by having seen so many similar films. Still the film is crisply shot, it has no fat and the few action scenes are nicely done. Even in a medium budgeted film like this Hong Kong can make the action look good.
Kent Tong, Roderick Lam, Lam Suet and Michelle Yam
Tse who I keep thinking is the crème of the crop of the new male actors is poorly used here in his dramatic sections as Wong gives him little to do but look surly and keep his famous bangs in place. If he ever intends to really become an actor I think he needs to rid himself of this follicle affectation – it just looks too idololic for a movie character. Edison actually comes off slightly better as he has a wider range of emotions to deal with and does a serviceable job at times and a wooden one at others. One has to wonder why Gillian signed on for this project – she is really a bigger star than either of her male co-stars and yet she is shunted to the side and given little to do but squinch her nose – which is truthfully all she has to do for me – maybe she just likes working and getting the experience but a film role like this does little for her career. Charlene seems to be making the better decisions of late.

My rating for this film: 6.0