Running Out of Time (1999) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence
Running Time: 93 min.

Cast: Andy Lau, Lau Ching Wan, Yoyo Mung, Waise Lee
Director: Johnnie To
Yau Nai Hoi, Laurent Courtiaud, Julien Carbon
Review published December 3, 1999

While obvious comparisons to the American release, The Negotiator, will abound, credit producer-director Johnnie To (Lifeline, The Heroic Trio) for making this not only substantially different, but just as fun and exciting. The film casts Andy Lau (Armageddon, Handsome Siblings) as the bad guy named Wah, who has only days to live due to a losing bout with cancer. He's crafty and he's pissed due to his father's untimely death the year before, and stages not only a robbery with those who sought to take advantage of dear old dad, but has his fun along the way with the best hostage negotiator in town, San (Lau Ching Wan, Black Mask). Together they play a cat-and-mouse game, and knowing Wah has nothing to lose makes him infinitely more dangerous.

Even though it isn't the smartest of thrillers, Running Out of Time is terrific fun with two likeable actors who stop at nothing to entertain. Director To pulls out all stops and his over-the-top stylistics make for great tongue-in-cheek action. The two leads play well off each other, and the supporting cast are well cast. It's less than 90 minutes but doesn't skimp on anything. Solid and tight action, just the way it should be.

-- Followed by Running Out of Time 2 (2001)

Qwipster's rating:

1999 Vince Leo