When other directors like John Woo and Ringo Lam took their success to Hollywood in the later part of the 1990s, Johnnie To continued to make and release films in Hong Kong. Two of these were Running Out of Time and Running Out of Time 2, action thrillers following police hostage negotiator Ho Sheung Sang (Lau Whing Wan). Each film is also highlighted by the villains that he must go up against, played by Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs) and Ekin Cheng respectively. Both films play like buddy cop action films, but ones in which the relationship is between combatants rather than partners.
In Running Out of Time, a cancer-ridden criminal named Cheung Wah (Lau) is given four weeks to live, and decides to spend them challenging hostage negotiator Ho Sheung Sang in a three-day battle of wits, starting with the robbery of a finance company. As a man of great intelligence and nothing to lose, Cheung is a worthy adversary for Ho. Although Running Out of Time features exciting chase sequences and clever heists, the action film is also intelligently made with solid performances. Lau won Best Actor at the 19th Hong Kong Film Awards, and the film received multiple other nominations.
Running Out of Time 2 repeated the formula from the first film, this time pitting Ho against an elusive unnamed thief (Elkin Cheng) who is determined to extort money from a high-strung businesswoman (Kelly Lin). When Ho attempts to catch him, the games of cat-and-mouse begin. It always surprises me how light To manages to make both of these films, primarily because of the tone he establishes and the careful balances brought out in the performances.
Both films are included on Blu-ray disc in the special edition Running Out of Time Collection from Arrow Video, which includes high definition presentations of each film, scanned and restored in 2K. They each are also presented in the original lossless Cantonese and Mandarin 5.1 audio, as well as lossless English mono (Running Out of Time) and lossless English 5.1 (Running Out of Time 2). Both have optional English subtitles, newly revised for this release.
The package itself contains newly commissioned artwork by Lucas Peverill, with the original artwork of each film combined on the opposite side. Inside the case is a booklet with still photos from the films, along with cast and crew info, information about the transfer, and an essay on the films from David West titled “On the Edge: Connection, Isolation, and Identity in Running Out of Time 1 & 2.”
DISC 1 (Running Out of Time)
- Brand new audio commentary by Hong Kong film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival)
commentary by writers Laurent Cortiaud and Julien Carbon, moderated by
Hong Kong film expert Stefan Hammond
interview with screenwriters Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud
interview with director Johnnie To
interview with star Lau Ching-wan
interview with composer Raymond Wong
Directors’ Overview of Carbon and Courtiaud, an archive featurette
- Image gallery
DISC 2 (Running Out of Time 2)
new audio commentary by Hong Kong film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film
Making of 'Running Out of Time 2', an archive featurette
Kong Stories, a
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
- Theatrical trailer
- Image gallery
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 7/10
Special Features: 8/10