Running Out of Time (1999)

June 29, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Director: Johnnie To Kei-Fung
Producer: Johnnie To Kei-Fung
Script: Yau Nai-Hoi, Julien Carbon, Laurent Courtiaud

Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Yoyo Mung Ka-Wai, Waise Lee Ji Hung, Hui Siu-Hung, Lam Suet, Ruby Wong Cheuk-Ling

Cantonese: Aau Chin
Mandarin: An4 Zhan4
Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Drama
Rating: II A (Hong Kong)
Theatrical Run: 09/23/1999

Language: Cantonese
Running Time: 93 min


• Film of Merit, 6th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
• Co-Winner, Best Screenplay, 5th Golden Bauhinia Awards
• Winner – Best Film, Fantasia 2000
• Winner – Best Actor, Andy Lau, 19th Hong Kong Film Awards
• Winner – Best Actor, Andy Lau, Golden Sun Awards



Plot: Andy, a handsome elegant young man, has only 14 days left in his life. He burglars a Diamond Trading Company and hence arouses the attention of a Police Negotiator, Sean. Sean believes Andy is challenging his wisdom and courage. He is eager to arrest Andy. An intense struggle triggers off, until Sean discovers the serious illness of Andy. What will Sean do?

root1A big hit for Milkyway, this is essentially a reworking of the hunter/hunted relationship in many movies (like Die Hard 3), where the hunter uses the hunted man to achieve some secret end. Andy Lau is excellent as the criminal, and Lau Ching Wan does a fine job as the hostage negotiator Andy fingers to help him pull off his scheme. The problem may be one of translation: it’s not always clear what kind of plan Andy Lau is executing, or why Lau Ching Wan can’t get his squad to help him with anything at all. Otherwise, it’s probably a fine suspense thriller. I don’t know. I couldn’t tell what was going on. And there are so many new movies, as well as so many exceptional old ones coming out of Milkyway, I don’t really care to go back and re-watch this one.

Though, an interesting bit is that the film was shot in an on-and-off fashion, over a two-year period. Star Andy Lau, anxious to play some darker roles than his usual romantic hero character, gave his time, along with costar Lau Ching-Wan and all the crew at Milkyway, unreservedly to this erratic venture. Later, Johnnie To’s cast for his masterpiece, The Mission, would give up their salaries when the budget ran out and film the rest of that picture pro-bono. Movie heroics in the making.



root2Superstar Andy Lau Tak-Wah plays a terminally-ill master crinimal engaging in a cat n’mouse with burnt-out, part-time hostage negotiator, Lau Ching-Wan. Andy spends his screen time dying magnificently, pulling off a quadruple-cross in his final 72 hours, while Lau Ching-Wan tries to keep up, running desperately after his self-respect andone last arrest. RUNNING OUT OF TIME swerves vertiginously from jokes to action to chase to tragedy to high drama, throwing MacGuffin after MacGuffin at the audience’s head all without missing a beat or ruining the fun. A brilliant cinematic collision between Hong Kong’s greatest actor, Lau Ching-Wan, and Hong Kong’s greatest star, Andy Lau, it’s part tightly-executed cat n’mouse thriller, part boy’s own adventure story, and part ode to urban alienation. Precision filmmaking at its best, this is the kind of gorgeous, lightly-doomed picture that would bring Cary Grant back from the grave.

—Grady Hendrix, Subway Cinema

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