Opening Thoughts: I've heard nothing but good things about Running Out of Time for quite some time now, but for some reason never got around to seeing it. I'm a fan of most of Jonnie To's work and lets face it, everyone's an Andy Lau fan. This is one of great actor/director duos to work in HK cinema and they rarely disappoint when teaming up.
Movie: Running Out of Time (or Am zim) starts out like may "super" cop movies. Inspector Ho Sheung-Sang (played by Chin Wan Lau) is called in to negotiate a hostage situation and boldly handles the crisis with ease. Little does he know, he's being closely watched by a mysterious man named Cheung (Andy Lau). Cheung soon robs a finance company and takes a hostage to lure Inspector Ho to the scene. Soon the two are face to face and Cheung tells inspector Ho that he wants to "play a game with him for 72 hours". Cheung then deftly escapes the building filled with police and the game is on. The rest of film is for the most part, a "Cat and Mouse" extravaganza. There are of course some Yakuza in the film which complicates matters, but that's secondary to the game Cheung and Ho are playing. Both Cheung and Ho are very intelligent and as soon as you think one has the other cornered, the roles are reversed. Their relationship becomes more complicated as the film goes on, but in the end the two know where each stands.
Most of Running Out of Time is recycled from various western films that you've probably seen dozens of times. What really makes the film work is Andy Lau and Chin Wan Lau's performances. Both actors play off each others strengths and really make the movie enjoyable. Jonnie To also does a great job in taking this familiar material and breathing new life into it. The pacing and editing of the film is very good and the short running time (93 minutes) doesn't leave much room for superfluous scenes. Siu-keung Cheng provides the cinematography for Running Out of Time and it fits the film perfectly. The shot selection is solid throughout the film and really helps bring out the two main characters. There are also some beautifully shot scenes like the rooftop hostage situation and the car crash aftermath. Siu-keung Cheng has shot almost all of Jonnie To's film since 1997's Fireline including
I also feel I must mention Raymond Wong's original score for Running Out of Time. I really enjoyed Wong's music and I felt it complemented the film greatly. More importantly, it's used sparingly and only at the right time during the film. Wong gracefully switches from more conventional scoring to very atmospheric pieces that utilize bagpipes, airy choruses and synthesizers. Besides scoring several other of Jonnie To's films, Raymond Wong has also scored several of Stephen Chow's films such as
Kung Fu Hustle,
Shaolin Soccer and The King Of Comedy.
Video: The transfer on this DVD is downright awful. Running Out of Time is presented in its OAR in a Non-Anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. At least they got that right, because everything else is really bad. The colors are way off and the black levels are horrible. There is also constant dirt/print damage, ghosting and overall the picture is very soft.
Sound: Even worse than the video on this DVD release is the audio. You get 2 Cantonese tracks (Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1) which are the original language tracks and 2 Mandarin dubbed tracks (Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1). All four tracks sound very, very poor. Not only are the mixes wretched, but the overall sound quality is flat and distorted.
Subtitles: The English subtitles are serviceable, but nothing more. I've seen far worse from HK DVD's and overall the subtitles don't hamper the enjoyment of the film. Plus it's always funny to read lines like: "This diamond worthies 80 million".
Extras: Surprise! There's not much here... You get a "Data Bank" which contains a synopsis of the film and cast/crew info. There's also the trailer for the film as well as a trailer for Sealed With a Kiss.
Final Words: Running Out of Time is easily one of the best Action/Drama/Crime films to come out of Hong Kong in the last 10 years. This movie is well worth your time and I highly recommend you see it. However, please don't view it via this DVD release. Mei Ah has since released a remastered All Region DVD of Running Out of Time that both looks and sounds great. The only drawback on that DVD is that they kept the mediocre subtitles from the previous DVD. Also one more word of advice, avoid seeing Running Out of Time 2. It's a waste of your time.