Johnnie To | 1999 | 93 mins | Hong Kong
It's neat when an action film doesn't have to rely on explosions to create the excitement and tension. I mean, I love the occasional Die Hard as much as the next guy (actually, probably more) but watching a film like Running Out of Time feels like a fabulous breath of fresh air once in a while.
The story centres around two men - Cheung, a dying young criminal mastermind (heartthrob Andy Lau) and Ho Sheung-Sang, the tough negotiator who's after him (played by Lau Ching Wan, who manages to out-hot the young heartthrob as the streetwise, hardened cop).
We find out from the start that Cheung's only got 14 days to live, so when he starts a 72 hour cat and mouse game with Ho Sheung-Sang, the mystery is only in what his motives and goals are. So begins a tense and hilarious 93 minutes of action through the streets of Hong Kong, as Ho Sheung-Sang chases after Cheung, who is trying to bring down an entire crime syndicate with a complicated double-cross scheme and an array of Mission Impossible-esque disguises.
The film is slick, fast paced, includes a few good chases, clever action sequences and very edge-of-your-seat moments, but it's got a low body count and an even lower explosion count, which actually works in its favour. Hong Kong uber-director Johnnie To apparently understands that allowing your audience to get wrapped up in the relationship between two witty, compelling characters and an intricate plot isn't such a bad thing in a thriller.