Running Out Of Time is a loose sequel to the popular 1999 Hong Kong movie Running Out Of Time. Ching Wan Lau and Shiu Hung Hui reprise their roles as Inspector Ho and bumbling sidekick Assistant Commissioner Wong Kai Fa but Andy Lau is replaced by the handsome young Ekin Cheng as the enigmatic art thief. I haven't seen the original so was unable to fully ascertain whether I was missing some background information or if no prior knowledge of the first movie was required to enjoy this sequel.
I have to say that not knowing the sequel meant I had nothing to benchmark this film against which is a good thing by all accounts, on the other hand I wasn't entirely sure what was going on all of the time - especially with the mysterious thief. Whilst watching the trailer of the first movie it was apparent that the main character (Lau) only had a short time to live and therefore planned a crime caper, hence the “running out of time” title, however in this movie the “The Thief” had no such time constraint as far as I could ascertain so the motivation for the chase didn't seem as urgent as one's imminent demise. The basic plot revolves around a mysterious thief who seeks a ransom for some stolen artefacts thus bringing in beautiful insurance worker Kelly Lin and Inspector Ho into the chase. One of the strong points of the first movie must have been the chase between the two main characters and this is the area that this movie focuses on, however Director Johnny To seems to be trying too hard and some of the scenes in this movie either don't make sense or just stretch credibility that bit too far. Here we have Ekin Cheng as more of a magician than a thief - a modern day Robin Hood who amongst other things, has a kinetic bond with an American Eagle, escapes with smoke clouds and mirrors, challenges Inspector Ho to a chase to the end of the street on a bicycle and during another chase even stops to have lunch (and books a table of 9 for the police to tuck in as well). There are numerous sub stories, such as a game of heads and tails with the Negotiator, who loses 327 times in a row but it became very confusing in the end to work out whether what one was seeing was to be taken at face value or had some hidden meaning. I gave Johnny To the benefit of the doubt and put this down to me not having seen the first film. I will seek it out to remedy this as it's confused me enough to get me interested!
Apart from the rather surreal moments in the film, it certainly has a quality feel about the production - I'm a relative newcomer to Hong Kong movies but I was impressed with the cinematography and the technical aspects of this movie (apart from the rubbish CGI eagle). So, in answer to my own question does this film work as a standalone piece? Well, for me not really - perhaps I'm not in tune enough with Hong Kong cinema yet or perhaps I've missed too much from the first movie but this movie doesn't have a strong story and relies too much on the “mystery” of Ekin Cheng. It doesn't explain why he is the way he is so we are left not understanding why Ho would become so desperate in his chase for this thief and instead, Johnny To has replaced a strong plot with surreal moments and implausible situations (unless you think a Homing American Eagle or disappearing into thin air after falling off a skyscraper is normal). Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind to watch this movie - maybe I'll try it again after watching the first one....
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