Monday, June 05, 2006

Running Out of Time

1999, Hong Kong, directed by Johnnie To

Johnnie To has proved to be something of a critical darling in the Western press over the past couple of years, with writers desperate to locate the latest auteur in Hong Kong's rampantly commercial cinema (although To hasn't made the job easy by switching between crime thrillers and the kind of Hong Kong comedy that doesn't translate as well to overseas markets). Running Out of Time belongs to the first wave of To crime pics, and like many similar genre entries, the weak, sometimes laughable, plotting is far less important than the often stylish action. The core of the picture is a cat and mouse intrigue involving a crime 'mastermind' (played by Andy Lau) and an unconventional cop (Lau Ching-Wan); their interaction, never especially realistic, becomes actively incredible as the film progresses. To saves things, though, with his fine pacing, never allowing the action to flag, and sharp cinematography (his slick take on Hong Kong's streets was re-cycled, to even better effect, by the directors of Infernal Affairs); both lead actors are strong, too, although some of the comic support is pretty weak from this outsider's perspective.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States