Moving Targets delivers on the promise of its title: it keeps moving, and hits most targets. This pot-boiling, lead-slinging, father-hating police yarn is based on the legendary 1980s TVB series Police Cadet (which, Ching Yee informs me, is where Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Lau Ching Wan became stars). I can’t speak for how faithful the adaptation is, but that would explain why the movie feels like it is cranking many hours of plot into 90 blink-and-miss-it minutes.
Fer instance: before the last shot is fired, the movie looks at how its police heroes relate to each other, how they relate to triads, how they relate to women, how they relate to their parents, and how they relate to having their late night noodle snack broken up by random goons with AK-47s. (Answer: with a bullet to the head.)
Nic Tse and Edison Chen are brisk and brash as the lead characters, and although neither are much chop when it comes to expressing strong emotion, they still remain watchable throughout; in fact, I can gladly say that this is the first time that I’ve been impressed by Chen, who is usually too cocky for his own good. The film’s single biggest suspension of disbelief is the casting of Lam Suet as his dad – clearly middle age hits the male line of that particular family with a mallet.
Fear not, it’s not all heart-to-hearts about how tough it is growing up as the cop son of a cop dad who once nearly shot off the left ear of your not-a-cop mum; there’s plenty of action too, and while we’re a long way south of Hard Boiled-style ballet, there are enough fireworks and exploding vehicles to keep you awake, and a truly red hot battle in a laundry. One key shootout uses a particularly inventive form of framing, and there are other neat cinematographical tricks throughout, particularly the way the film occasionally shuttles forward or backwards in time at high speed.
In short, if you have a chance, it’s worth a look. But as much as I liked it, I can’t help feeling that it was with the desperation of a thirsty man who finally crawls into the oasis and drinks his fill, even though he is pretty damn sure some camel has taken a whizz in there recently; which is to say, when the alternative night out at the Hong Kong movies is yet another by-the-fluffy-numbers romcom starring Sammi ‘n’ Richie or Miriam ‘n’ Louis, then a refreshing draft of Moving Targets actually tastes pretty damn good. When you consider that it’s come from the same cop beat that gave us Big Bullet, City on Fire, Expect the Unexpected, Full Alert, Yes Madam and Hard Boiled it’s sad to think that, as good as this is in parts, these days it may be as good as it gets.