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Derek Yee, currently one of the hottest thriller directors working in Hong Kong at the moment after the likes of “Shinjuku Incident” and the awesome “One Nite in Mongkok”, returns with “Triple Tap”. A follow up of sorts to the 2000 Leslie Cheung starring “Double Tap”, the film again takes place in the world of sharpshooting and men driven to the edge by the dangerous power of wielding a gun. This time around, the lead roles are taken by popular actors Daniel Wu and Louis Koo, with support from a returning Alex Fong and female eye candy in the form of Charlene Choi and Li Bing Bing (recently in Mainland thriller “The Message”).
The film begins with investment banking hotshot Ken (Louis Koo) and police detective Jerry (Daniel Wu) coming up against each other in a sharp shooting competition, which Ken wins by a narrow margin. On the way home afterwards, Ken comes across the robbery of an armoured van, and kills all but one of the criminals in an attempt to save the life of a traffic cop. Despite his apparent heroism, Jerry has Ken arrested and charged with firearm offences, finding it difficult to believe that he was not connected with the incident, especially since it involved the theft of bearer bonds. Already under stress from problems at work, and from trying to decide between Charlene Choi’s cute nurse and Li Bing Bing’s sexy executive, Ken is slowly pushed towards the edge when the surviving robber (Chapman To) begins to stalk him.
Right from the opening scenes it’s obvious that “Triple Tap” is a very manly affair, with the testosterone fairly flying from the screen as Koo and Wu smoulder and glare intensely at each other. This continues throughout the film, with neither Charlene Choi nor Li Bing Bing having much to do apart from trailing after Koo and looking concerned, despite the fact that he really doesn’t appear to care about either of them. This does result in some very amusing scenes, as the two male leads engage not so much in a game of cat and mouse as an unconventional form of gun themed courtship, filled with strange cryptic conversations taken up with quotes from psychology textbooks that neither seems to have read. Adding to the laughs is Alex Fong’s bizarre, Zen like ex-gun cop, who Wu turns to when he needs mystical advice.
Comedy aside, “Triple Tap” really isn’t what might have been expected, with Yee aiming for a serious psychological thriller rather than a simplistic shoot-em-up. The initial competition and robbery scenes aside, there really isn’t a great deal of action until the end, with much of the film being based around character driven tension. Surprisingly, this actually works pretty well, and though Wu’s detective is a bit of a blank, Koo does a good job as the multi layered Ken, managing to convey a genuine sense of mystery and pent up violence. The plot itself is quite interesting, playing with viewer expectations for the first hour or so before heading into more traditional thriller territory, and with its background theme of financial shenanigans giving a nicely contemporary air. Similarly, although the film never really goes too deeply into the psychology of the gun beyond a few fairly obvious statements, it does raise a few challenging moral questions, and benefits from at least trying to have something to say.
Yee does a good job of piling on the pressure, and things do get taut before finally exploding into action, showing again why he is one of the top current practitioners of the form. The shoot outs themselves are short and sharp, being all about marksmanship rather than waves of bullets. This does give the film a different feel to most other cop thrillers, and sits well with its ambitious intellectual underpinnings. Whilst the ending itself is pretty inevitable, it still rings true, mainly thanks to the efforts of Koo, who keeps the viewer sympathising and wondering about his character even after the credits have rolled.
Thanks to his performance, and Yee’s refusal to take the easy action packed route, although “Triple Tap” may not be the film that viewers expect, it stands as a superior, occasionally fascinating thriller. Given that many similarly themed Hong Kong efforts offer little more than stylish explosions and gunplay, this does help it to stand out from the crowd, and though not really one of Yee’s best, it’s definitely still worth checking out.
Tung-Shing Yee (director) / Tung-Shing Yee, Tin Nam Chun, Ho Leung Lau (screenplay)
CAST: Louis Koo … Kwan Yau-bok
Daniel Wu … Chong Tze-wai
Charlene Choi … Ting
Alex Fong … Miu Chi-shun
Suet Lam … Fong Chi-wo
Chapman To … Pang To