Film Review – Running Out Of Time 1+2 (Masters Of Cinema)

From Running Out Of Time (1999)

Released as part of their brilliant Masters of Cinema series, Eureka Entertainment give us the slick cat and mouse thriller Running Out Of Time. Directed by Johnnie To and a film that was released in 1999 and was one of Hong Kong’s biggest box office hits of that year and now released in the UK first time on Blu-ray.

It stars Andy Lau (who won the best actor award for his role at 2000 Hong Kong Film Awards) as Cheung Wah a man who has just been told by a doctor he has 2 weeks to live thanks to an terminal illness. He decides in his last days to take on the Hong Kong Police Force especially Inspector Ho Sheung Sang (Lan Ching-wan also known as Sean Lau) and criminal gangs in a dangerous cat and mouse. Shueng Sang can read through the lines can he get his man before he dies?

The film’s early scenes sees Wah on the roof top on the edge, which Johnnie To’s uses in many of his films. You could say it’s a metaphorical or even allegorical of the characters living on the edge or even the story is on a knife’s edge. Many of To’s films especially Mission have had a European gangster influence to them, this one is more American heist thriller.

It’s all thanks to Andy Lau’s Wah, figuring out what’s actually up with him and establishing his condition. We can say he’s meticulous man even in his final days, making sure all his plans are precise and on cue. He’s like a Arsene Lupin and loving every minute getting one over the authorities or the criminals. He’s loves to occasionally pushing the Police and the criminals (ran by crime lord Baldie). But as the film film title states ‘Running Out Of Time’ Wah tend is close and finding it hard to hide his pain when he coughs up blood.

We do find out Wah’s reasons for why he’s doing this, to the untrained eye, it’s all a game which pushes Shueng Sang to counter-play against Wah. He always accepts as it’s all about the wits and intelligence and always to be sharp and on the ball to the very last minute.

Andy Lau is the star of the show, plays Wah perfectly. A true Chameleon out foxes his opponents without revealing his trump card. Lau is considered by Hong Kong/Chinese film critics as an actor with a stature as big as Tom Cruise, rather than Asian Tom Cruise. This film is one of his finest performances, we must not forget Lan Ching-wan who is equally fantastic.

Running Out Of Time has a few flaws that prevent being a master class in Hong Kong Crime Thrillers. What we get is a highly entertaining, slick, visual thriller that is a must for crime fans.

From Running Out Of Time 2 (2001)

Running Out Of Time 2 arrived 2 years later in 2001. This time Lan Ching-Wan returns as our hard as nails inspector Ho Shueng Sang (now a superintendent). Bored being stuck behind a desk and once again in familiar territory face to face with a mysterious and elusive criminal mastermind calling himself Ken (Ekin Cheng). Who gives Ho that opportunity back into the game and another cat and mouse chase after he blackmails a company for 20 million.

The second film has a big factor on the question of fate as well as luck in what we do. The first film was more on the time we have , this film asks do we engineer that means? Lam Suet showcases his luck is down the gutter and he gambles too much which gets him in trouble. It plays sometimes like that icebreaker game we sometimes play when you are asked to let yourself go and fall into the arms of the person with you. Could you do that? Ken does use the theatrics in his game play, jumping off high buildings and surviving, even giving his best impression of a Male Mary Poppins. Or was those high defying moments in both films a metaphor of Hong Kong’s anxieties with 2005 handover to China?

Running Out Of Time 2 feels more dialogue driven than the wit and slickness of the original film. As for the plot it treads in familiar grounds and throws in some surreal moments that don’t feel right. A CGI American Bald Eagle! There is more characters on show here that do feel a little underdeveloped .

Besides those minor flaws there is enough in the sequel make this worth watching, it’s dumb fun.

The Running Out Of Time Masters Of Cinema box set, is a engrossingly entertaining release…


Action, Crime, Thriller | Hong Kong 1999/2001 | 15 | Blu-ray | 25th July 2022 (UK) | Eureka Entertainment | Dir. Johnnie To | Andy Lau, Lan Ching-Wan, Ekin Cheng, Hui Shui-Hung, Lam Suet, Kelly Lin | Buy Blu-ray

Originally posted on The Peoples Movies, 2nd August 2022 | Original review link

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