Film & DVD Review
Outside the courthouse, the key witness of a famous trial and six cops are assassinated. Each is hit twice in the same spot in the head. Miu knows Rick is back. Several years ago in a shooting contest, Rick and Miu knew they were born to be sworn rivals. Two top gunners now face their final battle. This is the gunfight of all gunfights.
Double Tap was one of the last film's which Leslie Cheung starred in before his death. It was also his second collarboration with director Lo Chi Leung, with whom he also went on to make a third film, Inner Senses, with. Their first collaboration was on Viva Erotica, which was co-directed with Derek Yee (who incidentally is the producer of this film!). This, however, was the first film where Lo Chi Leung was the sole director, and Inner Senses the second. In both films, both director and star Leslie Cheung show there versatility in handling films of a different styles, and in Double Tap you have a film which is quite unique in some ways.
I will get out the way first, one of the things which I really like about Double Tap, and that is that it doesn't try to be big and clever. It doesn't try to be grand scale, world domination in approach, it doesn't try to have a plot that twists and turns to keep the audience guessing, it doesn't try to be overly complex. What it is though, is in your face, to the point with no frills or surprises. By being like this, though, it does become slightly unpredictable as these days I've found I've become used to films having surprises and twists and the like. So this films was a nice change from the norm in that respect!
Now an explanation of what the film's title means. A "Double Tap" is a shooting expression for when someone fires two shots from their gun in quick succession, and they both hit pretty much the same spot, leaving a sort of 8 shaped whole on whatever they hit. Double taps are very hard to do, and only real experts are able to pull them off. Now onto the story.
Leslie Cheung is Rick Pang, an expert shot in competition shooting and also an expert gun craftsman. He gave up competition shooting three years prior to the start of the film, and now focusses only on teaching and refining his guns. However, one day in the gun-club a rival (Alex Fong) criticises his guns, which makes Rick decided to enter the next shooting competition in order to prove himself. Alex Fong is Mui, a cop who excells in criminal psychology, as well as race shooting. At the competition, the end result is a tie between Rick and Mui, but just before their tie-breaker head-to-head event takes place, one of Mui's work colleague's, and his best friend, who lost all his money in a bad investment, goes crazy and starts shooting people in the hope that he will get shot and killed. By being shot and killed his family will get some money, or something like that, and thus will be financially ok. As he is a cop, and known by a lot of people at the competition everyone is reluctant to shoot him, including Mui. However, when he points his gun towards Colleen, Rick's girlfriend, Rick doesn't hesitate in shooting him, leaving a double tap in his head. This incident stops the competition between Rick and Mui.
The shooting puts Rick into therapy for a short while, where he explains the fact that he is finding it difficult to sleep, and he keeps seeing the image in his dreams. However, what he doesn't tell the therapist, but does tell his girlfriend is that even though he has killed someone, he is very happy. The film then advances three years, and a key witness in a top law case has been killed, along with 4 police agents protecting him. All were shot twice, before they had a chance to draw their guns. Knowing that very few people in Hong Kong are able to shoot that quickly and accurately, Mui gets his team to round up all the top shooters, which includes Rick, with whom there was never a clear winner in their marksman competition.
I'm not going to recount any more of the plot, but in discussing the film and the actor's performances, I'm going to have to mention some more details of the film, which could be considered as quite big spoilers. However, none of these spoilers are things you aren't told fairly early on. Double Tap is quite like a Columbo episode in that you know early on who the bad guy is, and the rest of the program is the good guy trying to catch him. Except in this case there is a lot more guns, violence and killing than in a Columbo episode!
While the plot is at no time complex or difficult to follow, it is still engaging and interesting at all times. It is all fairly linear in delivery, but what for me makes it different as far as gun films go, is that it is realistically done. There is none of this John Woo style bullet ballet stuff. The expert shooters are just that, experts, and they pretty much always hit their target first time. None of this 1000 rounds fired for every person that is killed nonsense. Once the film gets going, you know exactly what is going on, and you are taken on the ride seeing what lengths Rick and Mui are going to go to in order to win.
The final shopping mall scenes are one place where I was a little surprised as to what happens. This is not because there was a twist, but because the film didn't live up to an old cliched plot element. A cop who was not that great a marksman in the past, and was a former student of Rick, unexpectedly finds himself in a situation where he has a clear shot on Rick. The way the following moments build up I did expect him to shoot and at least injure him, thus letting the side of good and justice win over evil. However, this does not happen. Instead Rick notices him just before he shoots, and shoots the cop quite a lot of times first, killing him without question. This I thought was a nice touch, as it wasn't cliched, it was true to life. Good doesn't come out on top in all circumstances!
The action sequences are all very well done. Like I've stated they are not flash in appearance or have style over content, they are realistically done with people acting like how I honestly would expect them to act. The first major shoot-out at the gun club finds about 6-8 cops up against Rick. Rick has his 21 shot racing gun, whereas the cops have a standard 6 shooter revolver... Once he opens fire on them, they quickly scatter and panic. There were not expecting him to do this and are caught in the confusion. After seeing a couple of them get shot, the rest are naturally very scared, and their shooting technique shows this. They don't want to be a clear shot, so just stick their guns around the corner to shoot, without actually aiming at what they are shooting. Rick on the other hand knows exactly what he is doing, and even though they are hiding, he knows where to shoot to get them. I thought this whole scene was very well done. The rest of the action was of an equally high standard.
Next on the list for commenting is the acting. There are really only two people in the film as far as this category is concerned: Leslie Cheung and Alex Fong. For me this film was very unique as it was a kind of role reversal film for these two. I've seen quite a few films where Alex Fong is a bad guy, and Leslie Cheung pretty much has always played the good guy/hero. In Double Tap they switch. I thought Leslie was very good as Rick. Most of the time his face was pretty emotionless, but with small things like the movement of his eyes, or a slight smirk, he looked convincingly insane and evil. This is played to its full with the use of camera angles on his face. There are quite a few of the extreme close up and strange angles views, which when used, always show someone to be crazy or something like that. I've read on other sites that some people found Leslie's performance to be quite wooden. I disagree, as I thought he portrayed a man who has an obsession with guns and little feeling towards anything else very convincingly. It's also worth mentioning that I was sure Leslie looked a little like Kenny Bee in some scenes!
Alex Fong's performance I'm not so sure about. In some areas I thought he was really good, and convincing, but in others he wasn't as believable. The scenes where he is filled with rage as his friend Joe was killed, are possibly his best scenes, as I found those emotions came across very well. However, other scenes just didn't have that same feeling. On average though, he was convincing and good on screen more ofthen than not.
I think I should also mention the cinematography. Like stated two paragraphs ago, to add to the effect of Rick going slightly insane, the close up shots of Leslie's faces are realatively frequent in static dialogue scenes. I'm not sure what to think of this really. In some places I liked it, but in others, like when Rick is talking to Mui while standing outside his car window, I didn't think it worked as well as was intended. Flashback scenes are given a very orangy-brown tint. Whether this is just to differentiate the past from the present, or whether there is a deeper significance to this colour, I don't know, but it is in these scenes that you see the process of Rick cracking up, and what Colleen had to tollerate. Again, off centre and angled view camera angles are used frequently here, which for some reason give the scenes added punch.
So what else can I say about Double Tap? Ruby Wong puts in a decent performance as the completely in love girlfriend, who is willing to overlook everything due to her love towards her boyfriend. While the character may not be that realistic due to what she puts up with and forgives, Ruby Wong's acting is still good. So to sum up, this is a a very good film, which will satisfy you in the action department, and despite being simple in design, it is still a satisfying story. Definitely worth buying.
Audio & Subtitles
The original language for Double Tap is Cantonese, and there two options available with this soundtrack, DD5.1 or DTS. I went for the DTS option. Throughout the sound is perfectly clear, however, there were times when I felt the volume balance was a little off. Gunshots were nice and loud, but in a following scene the speech was a little quiet so I had to turn up the volume. As a result gunshots in following scenes became very loud, possibly too loud in the balance of things. The surround speakers were used a little, but to good effect. Gunshots and other general ambient effects were spread around, and there may have been a few discrete sounds coming from the surrounds. I get the impression this was a 5.1 mix from a stereo soundtrack, or something like that. But with the exception of the imbalance in volume levels, everything was pretty good here.
The english subtitles were just as good, in my opinion. They were removable, in a bold white font, with a black border around each letter and positioned over the film print. Spelling and grammar errors were few and far between, so for that I've got to be happy! There were literally one or two lines of subtitle text which appeared on screen for too short a time, but that is the only real flaw that I can recall.
The film comes in a letterbox presentation. The transfer, on the whole, is very good. There was next to no speckling or little bits briefly appearing on screen at any point in the film, so it was pretty clean. However, in a few scenes there did look as though there was quite bad colour bleeding. It was particularly noticable in the scene where we first see Alex Fong's character acting out the conversation. The table is very bright due to the lighting, and this light colour spills over and into the background seen beside the table. General colour reproduction, I guess, is good. There aren't that many bright colours used in the film, with a lot of it looking rather bleak, fitting in more with the tone of the film. On the whole, it is a very good transfer.
DVD & Extras
For a Universe DVD, Double Tap has quite a bit in the way of extras. Firstly, the DVD menu is not a static menu, like with most other films, the menu options are over a background that shows scenes from the shooting contest in the film. The extras start with Star Files, in both English and Chinese, for Leslie Cheung, Alex Fong, Ruby Wong, Vincent Kok and Monica Chan. These are ok, but being a 1999/2000 film they are a little out of date now, particularly Leslie Cheung's. After that there is the usual film trailer, and trailers for Tokyo Raiders and Twelve Nights. Lastly, and by far the highlight, there is a Making Of... featurette. It is 18 minutes in duration and... and... it has english subtitles! It has brief interviews and comments from the cast and crew on their opinion on guns and the training that they went through for the film. You see Leslie Cheung and Alex Wong going through race gun training, on how to handle the gun properly, how to shoot it properly etc. All in all it is actually quite interesting.
Overall Double Tap is an excellent no-frills action film. There is no big bad guy with world domination plans, it is just one guy who goes a little crazy. There are no twists or surprises, everything is rather linear and straight forward, delivering a simple and quite realistic story but to maximum effect. Like I've already stated, the fact that there are no twists works to the film's advantage. I found in recent times I've got accustomed to plots with twists and turns so much that I now accept it as the norm, so while watching Double Tap I kept thinking that something particular was going to happen as it was the obvious, kind of cliched, twist. But it didn't. So by not being big and clever, Double Tap has a few minor surprises in it as it doesn't twist and turn. I found it very refreshing, and added more to my enjoyment of an already good film.
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