Running Out of Time

Hey Andy, do you think we could stop at McDonalds?

Andy Lau takes Lau Ching Wan on a wild ride.

Directed by Johnnie To Kei-Fung

Hong Kong SAR; 1999

Starring Andy Lau and Lau Ching Wan

93 Min.

In Short: Excellent performances from Lau Ching Wan and Andy Lau highlight this commercial crime thriller from Johnnie To and Milky Way Films. Despite some occasionally pretentious execution, Running Out of Time is a solid film, and a very entertaining experience.

Review: Johnnie To had been directing films in Hong Kong for over a decade before Running Out of Time, including the award winning All About Ah Long and the cult favorite The H

eroic Trio. However, it wasn’t until 1999 when he released this film, along his similarly entertaining The Mission, that his current reign as Hong Kong’s most well-regarded commercial director would begin.

Andy Lau stars as Patrick Cheung, a cancer patient with only weeks to live. For unknown motives, he holds up a business in a Hong Kong high rise, leading Inspector Ho (Lau Ching Wan) through a puzzle of events that slowly unfolds over the course of what Cheung describes as a “72 hour game.” Ho

is already in hot water with his boss (Hui Siu-Hung), who finds his methods of dealing with this seemingly odd criminal to be unorthodox, to say the least.

To’s major improvement as a director at this point is his eschewing of the overwro

ught melodrama that was characteristic of his earlier films. This change in execution is something to be thankful for given Cheung’s terminal cancer, which would likely be handled in a much more saccharine manner in one of To’s earlier films, or a film by most other commercially-oriented directors, for that matter.

The one annoying trick To employs in Running Out of Time is a repeated camera movement and editing trick seen sporadically throughout the film, in which the film speeds into fast motion with sounds of a sped-up clock in the background, the camera makes a quick

arching track, and eventually comes back to the principal actor slowing back down to regular speed and continuing the scene as normal. This does not seem to serve any function except maybe trimming a half-minute off the overall running time without losing any footage, and draws a bit more attention to itself than is really needed in a commercial film.

As one would expect from a Hong Kong veteran like To, the action is tightly edited, preserving a clear sense of directional continuity even in moments of faster cutting speeds. While there are no lengthy extended action set pieces like one would find in a John Woo or Tsui Hark film, the twists and turns in the narrative are exciting enough to keep Running Out of Time from ever getting boring.

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About Adam DiPiazza
I love Peach Snapple.

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