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With: Daniel Wu, Alex To, Tony Ho Wah-chiu, Chin Kar-lok, Jo Kuk Jo-lam, Ruby Wong, Joe Lee
Written by: Dante Lam
Directed by: Dante Lam
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Cantonese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 94
Date: 02/22/2001

Hit Team (2001)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Hit' and Miss

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With his groundbreaking works A Better Tomorrow Parts 1 and 2, and The Killer, director John Woo perfected the notion of the gray area. His heroes were not all that good and his villains were not all that bad. The heroes (usually cops) were headstrong and stubborn and the bad guys usually committed their crimes for the sake of some needy loved one (such as Chow Yun Fat raising money for the blind girl's operation in The Killer).

Directed by Dante Lam, the new film Hit Team, opening today at the Four Star Theater, takes on this formula but unfortunately doesn't really add anything new to it. Five close-knit cops who play rugby together find themselves torn apart when one of their number, Ho (Chin Kar-lok), gets shot in an undercover sting. When the paperwork doesn't add up, the police department refuses to pay for Ho's medical expenses. So the rest of the team, except for one holdout (Tony Ho), decide to rob "the underground bank," essentially a storeroom full of stolen money, to pay for Ho's operation.

The robbery itself goes badly, and the well-meaning cops end up killing all the bad guys. So the Hit Team, led by Chung (Daniel Wu, also in Cop on a Mission), is called in to investigate. The newest member of the team, Jane (Jo Kuk Jo-lam), causes friction simply by being female. One of the movie's best scenes has her racing with Chung to see who can assemble their firearms faster, and ends with a great John Woo-type standoff.

Lam delivers at least one other spectacular action sequence with the robbery itself. Here the camera takes flight, zooming and swishing all over the room, and zeroing in on the calm before the storm, taking a moment to savor the point of no return just before the killing starts. It's a beautifully designed and executed scene. In addition, Lam provides a fairly interesting car chase in which at least half the screen time is devoted to the drivers' faces.

The sheer momentum of scenes like these ought to carry the film through, but they're few and far between. Lam instead opts for conventional storytelling, which doesn't seem to be his strong suit. Most of this stuff comes lifted from other movies, and not even old, forgotten movies at that. Any Hong Kong fan worth their salt will recognize all of it.

Like the famous 1955 French caper movie Rififi, the second half of Hit Team deals with the fallout after the robbery, and it's not nearly as interesting as the first half. I'm not sure if my attention wandered or if the plot itself was just difficult to follow. Either way, I confess that my interest flagged. In truth, none of the characters really sprang to life as an emotional being, as they do in Woo's pictures. We end up just flailing around in empty space, looking for something to grasp onto and not finding it.

As far as I can tell, this is Lam's fifth movie since his debut in 1997, and he doesn't seem to have any tricks of his own to offer. I doubt he will shake anyone's foundations with Hit Team, but for die-hard Hong Kong fans, it may be worth a viewing.

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