Running out of Time 1 & 2
In the hopes of entering an insanely thrilling Johnny To double feature, I bought the new release of Running out of Time parts one and two. I like the early and late Hong Kong action cinema, and I have recently begun to explore and discover new and old treasures of the pre and post handover era (see some of my other recent reviews). I want to skip the extensive review and content summary, as I just want to give an insight as to where this stands vis-a-vis my expectations and what I thought of this in general.
The first movie is of course rather nice, with an epic bagpipe-backed score, some great chemistry and an intriguing plot (that is a not too original cat and mouse game). However, I thought that for one the movie never really takes off and also Andy Lau gets outgunned by Lan Ching-Wan, who is not only the better actor, he’s just also the better actor having a better character here.
In the lacklustre sequel, Lau doesn’t return so he is replaced by Ekin Cheng who plays an even more ridiculous villain. The chemistry is even worse, but at this point the audience doesn’t care anymore. It’s over-the-topness that sold this movie in the first place, marketing by premise in a way.
All in all however, both are more than watchable, and they especially show an interesting underfocused side of the city, which is not the only aspect in which To sometimes gets compared to Michael Mann. He has a knack for the urban setting.
Both movies have recently popped up on BluRay double features in HK, the UK and the USA in very similar editions. I got the UK edition to watch this, other editions may differ slightly of course. The image transfers are rather nice on both, and the sound is decent as well. There is a plethora of extras on this which is worth the price alone.
- Limited Edition slipcase featuring new artwork by Grégory Sacré (Gokaiju)
- High Definition Blu-Ray (1080p) presentations of both films, scanned and restored in 2K, from FortuneStar
- Original lossless Cantonese and Mandarin 5.1 audio options, plus lossless English mono (Running Out of Time) and lossless English 5.1 (Running Out of Time 2)
- Optional English subtitles, newly revised for this release
- Brand new audio commentary tracks on both films by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival), super interesting and full of trivia as always
- Audio Commentary on Running Out of Time by writers Laurent Cortiaud and Julien Carbon, moderated by Hong Kong Film expert Stefan Hammond (he is the author of Hollywood East, one of the first books on HK cinema that I had read and the author of the more famous Sex and Zen A Bullet in the Head: The Essential Guide to Hong Kong’s Mind-bending Films) from the Tai Seng DVD
- Archival interviews with screenwriters Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud from 2003 and 2005, source from the old French DVD (22min) and 2005 for the UK release (37min) and in English actually while the older is of course in French.
- Archival interview with director Johnnie To, originally filmed for the 2003 French DVD release (11min) French subs here blurred and replaced with English subs
- Archival interview with star Lau Ching-wan, also from the French DVD (25min)
- Archival interview with composer Raymond Wong (27min)
- The Directors’ Overview of Carbon and Courtiaud – archival featurette, from the 2005 UK DVD (8min), quite interesting, about the tewo Frenchmen working in HK
- Hong Kong Stories – 52-minute documentary from 2003 by director Yves Montmayeur (Johnnie Got His Gun!) about Hong Kong cinema mythology via Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud’s experience as screenwriters in the HK film industry, working for Wong Kar-wai, Tsui Hark, Daniel Lee and of course Johnnie To
- Making of Running Out of Time 2 – featurette; Trailers; Stills Galleries
- PLUS: A collector’s booklet featuring new writing on both films by David West
Not bad, definitely a must for HK aficionados.
Buy now: From Amazon.co.uk (Eureka edition) | From Amazon.com (identical Arrow Video edition) | From Play Asia (HK edition)