My Lover is a Sniper (2004) Movie Review

“My Lover is a Sniper” is the third part in a series that started with two TV movies that proved popular enough to warrant a feature on the big screen. The movie stars Miki Mizuno (“Bayside Shakedown 2″) as Kinako, a police Detective who, in the first and second installments, investigated a string of sniper deaths that, unbeknownst to her, were being committed by one Wong Kai Koh (Uchimura Teruyoshi), who at the time was living with her as a house guest. Long story short, Wong was apprehended, and that’s where “My Lover is a Sniper” Episode 3 picks up.

The film opens with a brief recap of the previous two installments, narrated by Kinako during her morning jog. It’s a good thing Miki Mizuno is a very fit woman, because soon her character is running all over town trying to catch a sniper who is picking off the city’s populace from rooftops. The sniper claims to be a member of the gang that the incarcerated Wong was once a part of, and demands a hefty payday or he’ll keep killing. The Prime Minister balks, forcing the sniper to take his blackmail public, where he asks the public to send him money in return for their safety. The sniper, a clever bastard, sends anyone who sends him money a “talisman” that exempts the wearer from being shot.

Without any clues to go on, the police spring Wong from a Chinese prison in order to use his knowledge of the sniper, a former prot’g’ of his, to catch the gum-chewing psychopath. Or actually, that’s how the movie starts out, because soon Wong’s old gang springs him from the Japanese prison. It seems the sniper quit the gang years ago, and is now tarnishing the organization’s name by associating it with the blackmail scheme. Apparently being an assassins guild doesn’t quite mean you’re ruthless and without honor, because the gang wants Wong to find the sniper and take him out. Wong is more than happy to oblige, since he doesn’t want his beloved Kinako to get blood on her hands before her wedding day to a police Captain. Will Wong and Kinako rekindle their romance? Or better yet, where’s Dirty Harry Callahan when you need him most?

Plot-wise, “Sniper” is all over the place, indulging in great leaps of logic unsupported by anything in the movie, as well as some gargantuan plot contrivances that pop up out of nowhere to help move the film forward. In one scene, Wong sort of just knows who the mastermind behind the killings is, and proceeds to enter the mastermind’s office, inside a high rise — and, one presumes, guarded — building at night with no resistance. Later, Kinako joins him after shooting a man and, apparently, walking in the rain all night so that she’s still soaking wet when she appears at the office door.

That’s another thing about “Sniper”. Characters just sort of beams in and out of buildings as if by magic, and you can never figure out how they made it out of certain situations (like springing a prisoner out of a police department’s basement, or somehow appearing outside a police building after you just shot someone inside the building) but, well, they just did. Later, with about 30 minutes left and the movie’s idea of a police investigation basically consisting of Kinako running around the city and the police department getting absolutely nowhere, plot logic once again takes a back seat to the upcoming end of the movie. As a result, Wong and Kinako magically show up at the killer’s next sniping position because, well, the movie needs to end soon, and the final action sequence needs to take place about now.

Yes, “My Lover is a Sniper” really is as illogical and random as it sounds.

Besides needing to guard their police buildings and jail cells more efficiently, the police in “Sniper” are quite inefficient. Even Kinako has to walk around lugging a big black purse with her. Or maybe we should be more concern with her wardrobe, which consists of a white long-sleeve shirt and black slacks for the entire film. I guess the police just don’t pay enough for two wardrobes. Although she’s chasing a sniper who can shoot her at any moment, Kinako never has a gun anywhere near her. That is, until the second half, when she’s required to have a gun because, well, the script calls for her to have a gun handy at this point in the movie. I believe this is plot contrivance #451.

At almost two hours, “My Lover is a Sniper” is much too long, leading to some dull moments that just don’t go anywhere. As mentioned, the police investigation is completely fruitless, as the cops don’t seem to do, or seems capable of solving, much of anything. Of course the fact that the police investigation is going nowhere doesn’t really matter, since the film has tons of moments of sudden, out-of-thin-air revelations. In fact, they even telegraph the identity of the criminal mastermind from a mile away. The actor mind as well have, “Super criminal mastermind” tattooed on his forehead when we first see him.

On the plus side, one of the film’s few clever, tongue-in-cheek elements is that the villain requires the citizens of Japan to wear a “talisman” that marks them as having paid his ransom. The talisman turns out to be a big yellow button with the word “Peace” written on it. According to a character in the movie, the original purpose of the buttons was to protest the American invasion of Iraq. Which, if you didn’t catch it, makes the peace emblem rather ironic, since it’s now the symbol of appeasement by the Japanese people toward the killers/snipers. Whether the film meant it to be or not, one could translate the button as a poke in the eye of people who thought appeasing Saddam “The Butcher of Baghdad” Hussein was a good idea.

If you can look the other way when “My Lover is a Sniper” throws the umpteenth improbable plot contrivance at you, then the final 30 minutes is rather entertaining, involving a series of sniper duels between Wong and the villainous snipers. Meanwhile, Kinako goes after the rest of the gang by her little lonesome. (I guess calling the rest of the police force for help was just too much trouble.) This proves to be a poor choice by Kinako, especially since she’s still suffering from having to kill a man earlier, and can’t bring herself to use her gun again. It’s lucky for her, then, that the bad guys decide not to use their sniper rifles — they are, after all, snipers — and fight her hand-to-hand instead. Man, she sure is one lucky gal.

If it isn’t obvious by now, not a lot about “My Lover is a Sniper” makes sense, people do some strange and inexplicable things, and the script isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. (At one point a character is clearly shown shot and killed, but pops back up at the end of the film because — well, he just does. Go with it.) Still, there are some entertaining bits, and Miki Mizuno pulls off the physical parts quite well. And for the most part the action-packed second half does make up somewhat for the humdrum plotting of the first hour, which keeps itself from being a complete waste only because actress Miki Mizuno is really appealing.

Ryoichi Kimizuka (director)
CAST: Mizuno Miki …. Kinako
Uchimura Teruyoshi …. Wong Kai Koh
Naoto Takenaka …. Boss


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