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A movie directed by Johnnie To

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  • Dec 30, 2003
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There's something to said for this tightly-woven Hong Kong action thriller because RUNNING OUT OF TIME tries very hard to combine the traditional buddy picture with one pinch of "The Sting" and a hint of "Tootsie" thrown in for unexpected laughs.

What makes TIME tick is the slickness of the characters: Wah only has a few weeks to live, suffering from a form of incurable cancer, and he finds himself paired with police negotiator Sang in his final act toward redemption. Redemption, however, already has its price tag on it, as Wah's condition quickly deteriorates, and he must rely on an unlikely friendship with Sang to help make end-meet-end before meeting his Maker.

These two actors make the picture work, despite some clunky dialogue (especially clunky in the English-dubbed version, so be warned). Their chemistry onscreen elevates TIME to higher levels of interest for the viewer as you don't know who to root for here: the cop being hustled by the shylock, or the shylock living out his last few days trying to mend life's wrongs.

Regardless of whom you root for, RUNNING OUT OF TIME is a great achievement -- a welcome twist to the cop/crook formula -- that gives you some wonderfully unexpected laughs as the story unfolds.

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What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops".   … more
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Johnny To, whose cool, precise gangster thrillerThe Missionis one of the best Hong Kong films since the Chinese takeover, brings a stylish flair toRunning Out of Time, an absurdly plotted but compelling cat-and-mouse crime drama that became a box-office smash in Hong Kong. Criminal genius Wah (pop star Andy Lau) is given only a few weeks to live by his doctor, so he embarks on an elaborate heist and strings along hostage negotiator and unconventional supercop Sang (Lau Ching Wan) as part of the fun. "I just want to play a game with you for 72 hours," Wah confesses. "Great," responds Sang's blustery boss, "it's lunatic against lunatic." The elaborate scheme has something to do with a bald badass mobster (an almost unrecognizable Waise Lee, of John Woo'sBullet in the HeadandA Better Tomorrow), a priceless gem, and a debt of honor. There's a hint of Woo's warrior bonding as cop and crook develop a respectful adversarial friendship in their running battle of wits: "If you can get me to the police station, you win." It all hinges on some far-fetched twists and the Hong Kong cops are little more than buffoons for most of the film, but To's steely seriousness, sleek style, and runaway pacing keep the film flying through most of the improbabilities.--Sean Axmaker
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