Double Tap, directed by Law Chi-leung in 2000, is what it is: a film in which two overly emotional men face off against one another on the streets of Hong Kong. As melodramatic as a soap opera and aggressively masculine, it is through and through a typical example of Hong Kong action cinema. It is insufficiently original or stylish to stand out from the crowd. On the other hand it is competently made and well executed. It offers 100 minutes of suspenseful action, is solidly performed, and delivers exactly what it promises its audience.
Rick (Leslie Cheung) is a competitive shooter playing in an annual Hong Kong championship against rival shooter Miu (Alex Fong) – a police detective. When another competitor threatens to go on a shooting rampage, Miu hesitates while Rick shoots him dead. Three years later Miu investigates a multiple killing only to recognise Rick’s handiwork, forcing their rivalry to turn deadly.
It is best to look too deeply into the psychology of Double Tap. Like that urban myth of the dog who tastes human blood, Rick’s execution of a spree shooter has transformed into an addiction to murder. It makes little sense, and the film does little to try and make it make sense. Interestingly, the film does not attempt to build any suspense about Rick’s murder spree either. It openly reveals his guilt as soon as it is relevant, and does not even spend time in challenging the police to prove his guilt. Instead the focus is very much on Rick and Mui, the cat-and-mouse game they play, and the rapidly increasing body count.
Alex Fong is dependable as Mui, giving the character a nice balance of level-headedness and growing rage. The screenplay places him right in the middle of a continuum with a calm, honest officer at one end and a typical corner-cutting corrupt cop at the other. This gives Fong the chance to elaborate on and build his character, particularly in scenes between Mui and his wife Ellen (Monica Chan). For her own part Chan adds a measure of depth to the picture, but does struggle with a character who feels a bit too much like a fountain of philosophical advice.
As Rick, Leslie Cheung goes all out in a showy and heightened performance. It is somewhat typical of the actor’s style; always playing with more adventurous takes on characters and dialogue, while remaining idiosyncratic enough to avoid seeming melodramatic or hammy. He does a lot of excellent work to paper over the inconsistencies in his character, and in a few key scenes absolutely nails Rick’s inner torment and instability. Ruby Wong is a valuable extra asset to the picture as Rick’s girlfriend Colleen – although the film does take its time in showing off her conflict over Rick’s actions.
Double Tap is rock-solid entertainment for fans of Hong Kong action, and presents a strong directorial debut for Law Chi-leung. Alex Fong would prove popular enough to return in two sequels (One Nite in Mongkok and Triple Tap), while Leslie Cheung – who sadly took his own life three years later – is always worth watching. This is not quite a classic, but it is definitely upper shelf stuff.