Running Out of Time 1999 Review: An entertaining crime film with great editing and wonderful performances

Police inspector and excellent hostage negotiator Ho Sheung-Sang finds himself in over his head when he is pulled into a 72 hour game by a cancer suffering criminal out for vengeance on Hong Kong’s organized crime syndicates.

Due to winning the prestigious Best Asian Film award at Fant-Asia Film Festival as well as Andy Lau (Luu Duc Hoa) the award for Best Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2000. “Running Out of Time” has to be one of the most popular movies directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To.


Within the structure of the movie. Especially regarding Andy Chan’s slick editing and Raymond Wong’s music. It seems to follow a distinct cadence, each scene framed by a feeling or urgency. At the same time, To also finds time for quiet scenes. Even romance, for example, in the sequences involving Cheung and a girl on a bus. Played by Yoyo Mung, suggesting a certain attraction between the two of them. Within the plethora of wonderfully choreographed chase-sequences and action set pieces. These scenes may just be some of the most beautiful and romantic within To’s body of work. Even though you could debate their relevance within the context of the plot.

At last, To’s film (phim hanh dong 2021) repeatedly plays with the parallels between the cop- and the criminal-character in his film. As with many of his films.  There is a certain bond between characters who, on the surface, are opposites. But share a deep understanding and even a certain professionalism regarding their line of work. Within the framework of the “game” they are playing, as Cheung calls it. It is also a game of wits, tactics and intelligence, similar to chess or poker. This idea adds much to the overall enjoyment which is “Running Out of Time” for its viewer. Making it stand apart from the generic formula-foundation To often uses.

Running Out of Time (Kinh Thien Thap Nhi Tieu Thoi) is an entertaining crime film with great editing, timing and wonderful performances. Especially by the two male leads. It is a film whose fast pace and dialogue again present the incredible talent of Johnnie To who can easily make a mainstream movie as well as an action film with a more arthouse-like touch such as “The Mission”. In the end, perhaps the director himself the most convincing chameleon after all.

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