Double Tap (2000)

Directed by: Law Chi Leung
Written by: Yeung Sin Ling, Yeung Chin Hung & Clarence Lee
Producer: Derek Yee
Starring: Leslie Cheung, Alex Fong, Ruby Wong, Vincent Kok & Monica Chan

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Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2001:
Best Sound Effects (Tsang King-Cheung)

Director Law Chi Leung's career has been supported by perhaps the most reliable profile in Hong Kong cinema, Derek Yee. Starting out as assistant director on Yee's Full Throttle moving on to co-directing Viva Erotica and after co-writing Daniel Lee's finest film to date, Till Death Do Us Part, time came for Law to finally helm a movie on his own; the action-thriller Double Tap, again backed by Derek Yee who shares story credit and produced.

Rick (Leslie Cheung) is not only an expert marksman but also an expert gun-modifier. He runs a shooting range which is also the locale for a competition where his fiercest rival is cop Miu (Alex Fong). During a pivotal event, a stockbroker who's not only failed in the tournament but also lost his all to the market, goes on a shooting rampage and Rick is the one that dares to put the deadly bullet in him. Cut to 3 years later and a bloody, multiple killing leaves trails of the "double tap" technique, something only few in Hong Kong has mastered, including Rick and he is indeed the one that's gone on this killing rampage. One that's not over...

Very much a commercial venture in style, look and execution, Double Tap is clearly still an effort with ambitions a little bit higher than just catering to the local box office. Those intentions I think the filmmakers realized couldn't take them to greater heights, as a character drama anyway, so the mantra in question instead becomes: breathe and focus to deliver top notch mainstream filmmaking, with the Derek Yee mark of quality instead. Law Chi Leung's first solo feature is therefore, entertaining, powerful and well-acted to a degree that this genre allows.

First thing that does strikes you after viewing is the darkness of the tale and in particular how it parallels the background to Leslie Cheung's suicide in 2003. The character of Rick is an introvert and one that clearly carries a lot of hidden darkness to him. You can see through the celluloid and it's a bit of a sad experience because of it. If concentrating fully on the movie instead, Law Chi Leung brings no deeper themes but one that obviously is part of the film is the question of vigilantes, as also examined in Righting Wrongs. Compared to that film, this is a movie from a generation of talent that did and does not focus on martial arts but it obviously comes through in either case. You can look at Rick and claim there's no real motive behind his very harsh actions but I think screenwriters Yeung Sin Ling, Yeung Chin Hung & Clarence Lee are making the point that Rick being an introvert leads up to this and there's no set path a mind will walk when doing this transition. That I feel is the most believable part in Leslie's character. The subsequent portrayal is very serviceable and intense but doesn't exactly stand out as fresh. But going back to filmmakers intentions though, this is supposed to be serviceable, which both Law Chi Leung and Derek Yee knows.

And having said that, I admire Law's very balanced and level headed style to the film that seems to find the good spots to visually stand out and the spots where other aspects should be at the forefront. You have the opening act which consists mostly of the shooting range competition that is DOP Venus Keung's chance to be MTV but it's also a compelling choice we realize because straight after one such sequence, you see how the filmmakers suitably take a breather when it's time to. Otherwise it's easy to drown an entire movie in a quick-cut, shaky camera style just because that's all you have to bring. Double Tap possesses more talent than that and all in all, narrative is brisk, tension is at times very good and the only real flaw in, again, this consciously mainstream effort with a dark twist, is that melodrama is taken 2-3 steps too far. You have a scene such as Alex Fong's Miu finally breaking that cool exterior but what Law and company needed to do was, like I described above with the camera style, stop and take a breather even here. Subtlety can work absolute magic. Learn from the scene where Fong, by himself, is just watching a crime scene where one of his closest friends has fallen victim to Rick.

Acting-wise, and with a limited depth to the characters, I think the late Leslie Cheung broke new ground here, at least in terms of the movies I've seen. The teen idol I never saw taking on these darker characters and it really made sense because he didn't seem to possess that particular edge. However, there comes a time when actors grow into maturity that allows that and Leslie I think did very well for himself here, best when his madness is about quiet passages rather than hysterics though. You do again wonder how much, at this time, the character reflected his inner struggles and you can't help but to miss him regardless of what performance you see. Had he still been with us, I think we would've seen an even more impressive growth but Cheung thankfully lives on for us to admire what he did accomplish in his lifetime.

Alongside the Leslie Cheung we find, and I keep coming back to this, one of the finest acting talent without a big break in Hong Kong cinema. Namely Alex Fong. However, he's one that seems to be forced to sink to the level of commercialism in order to be truly noticed but being backed by, Yee including in the recent One Nite In Mongkok, Fong's is certainly not giving up and as a bonus to fans, he has choosen his projects fairly well. There's few actors I can think of that exudes quiet dignity better than Alex, which is what the character is about. It's also very believable when that dignity can't overpower emotions and despite this role being more leaned towards commercial fodder, there's still humanity in the character and performance to appreciate. Ruby Wong appears as Rick's girlfriend and she still manages to make a solid impression despite given less to do.

Law Chi Leung's Double Tap won't be mistaken for possessing any great depth but the depth it does possess is more than most mainstream efforts dare to take a chance with and this Derek Yee production comes off looking much better because of it. A good double act in Leslie Cheung and Alex Fong combined with a compelling atmosphere makes Double Tap an action-thriller with mainstream intentions but definitely worthy of appreciation from all camps.

The DVD:

Universe presents the film in 1.80:1 aspect ratio approximately. The print is spotless, colours are good but the softness over the print hinders any great sharpness to come through.

The Cantonese 5.1 Dolby Digital Cantonese track is engaging with clear sound effects, clear dialogue and good usage of all channels. A Mandarin 5.1 dub is also included.

The English subtitles feature a few slight errors, otherwise they seem to convey dialogue well. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. Extras are limited to Star's Files for Leslie Cheung, Alex Fong, Ruby Wong, Vincent Kok and Monica Chan. Fairly informative overall except Fong's bio remains very brief. Trailers for Double Tap, Tokyo Raiders and Twelve Nights are also included.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson