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Running Out of Time(1999)
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 organised crime Syndicates
For more about Running Out of Time and the Running Out of Time Blu-ray release, see Running Out of Time Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 3, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Johnnie To
Writers: Nai-Hoi Yau, Laurent Courtiaud, Julien Carbon
Starring: Andy Lau, Ching Wan Lau, Suet Lam, Waise Lee, Ruby Wong
» See full cast & crew
Running Out of Time Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 3, 2011
Winner of Best Actor Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards and Film of Merit Award at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards, Johnnie To's "Am zin" a.k.a "Running Out of Time" (1999) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Kam & Ronson Enterprises. Unfortunately, there are no supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc. In Cantonese, with optional English and Traditional Chinese subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
A man (Andy Lau, Infernal Affairs Trilogy, What Women Want) is told that he has approximately 72 hours to live and he immediately proceeds to rob a large insurance company in downtown Hong Kong. The man, who is in his early 30s, is fit and handsome.
Once inside the company's building, however, the man takes a hostage and demands to speak with a negotiator -- the best one the local authorities have. Shortly after, Ho Sheung-sang (Lau Ching-Wan, Accident, Mad Detective) arrives at the scene and the man informs him that he wants to play a game with him for 72 hours. Before the negotiator can figure out what kind of a game he will be playing, the man disappears in the large building.
Pride has a lot to do with what follows up because the negotiator is typically the one who forces his opponents to react to his game. Now he has been forced to follow a man he does not understand. Annoyed and determined to prove that he always comes on top, the negotiator goes after the man. But very soon, he discovers that this time around he has to deal with someone who always knows what his next move will be.
The foundation for director Johnnie To's Running Out of Time is a familiar one -- a "cat and mouse" game involving a determined cop and an intelligent and skillful villain -- but the end result is anything but predictable. The film takes its audience on a wild ride with plenty of twists that are as effective and original as they could possibly be. The main protagonists are also very convincing, both men with human strengths and weaknesses.
The film is loosely divided into three sections. In the first, behavior profiles are established and goals set. Then after the "cat and mouse" game is initiated, director To highlights what makes the two players in it unique. A subplot is also outlined, though it is not immediately made clear how it fits into the game.
The second section is the most exciting one. When the negotiator goes after the villain, a series of events change the entire complexion of the game. Success and failure are constantly redefined by these events, setting the stage for an impressive finale.
The third and final section has all of the key ingredients that make the films that come out of Milkyway Image (director To's production company) so unique. At this point, it is impossible to decide whether to root for the villain or the negotiator. Both have been terrific players. Both clearly deserve the audience's respect and sympathy.
The film's only weakness is the slightly underdeveloped romantic relationship between the villain and a beautiful girl he meets in a bus. The potential for something more substantial is there but remains unused.
The film moves at a brisk pace, blending high-octane action and humor very well. The chase scenes, in particular, are never unnecessarily prolonged, leaving plenty of room for strong character development. Additionally, cinematographer Cheng Siu-keung's (Election, Sparrow) excellent lensing gives the film a very stylish, contemporary look.
Note: In 2000, Running Out of Time won Best Actor Award (Andy Lau) at the Hong Kong Film Awards. During the same year, the film also won Film of Merit Award at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards.
Running Out of Time Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Johnnie To's Running Out of Time arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Kam & Ronson Enterprises.
The high-definition transfer is surprisingly good. Though it has been struck from a dated source, it is a notable step in quality. For example, detail is dramatically improved during close-ups -- I've tried to get a good number of various close-ups to illustrate the upgrade -- while clarity levels are pleasingly consistent even during the darker sequences from inside the business building. Color reproduction is also convincing. The variety of blues, greens, browns, and blacks do not break up as they do on the R1 SDVD release (Tai Seng Entertainment). Also, the prominent macroblocking from the R1 SDVD release has practically been eliminated as well. This being said, the high-definition transfer is not without flaws. Quite obviously, it is a dated one, and traces of light filtering could be easily seen. The good news, however, is that the image has plenty of depth, and film grain, though mixed with a small dose of noise, is also present. Additionally, there are no traces of post-production sharpening similar to the ones seen in Full Throttle, or strong halo effects and/or aliasing. Some small scratches and flecks occasionally pop up here and there, but large cuts or damage marks are nowhere to be seen. All in all, this is one of the better catalog releases I've seen this year from Kam & Ronson Enterprises. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Running Out of Time Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1. For the record, Kam & Ronson Enterprises have provided optional English and Traditional Chinese subtitles for the main feature.
Like the video treatment, the audio treatment is surprisingly good. The Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track has a decent range of dynamics that enhance the various action scenes in the film quite well. Admittedly, balance could have been improved, but none of the sudden dynamic collapses that I've heard on other HK catalog releases are present here. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and easy to follow.
Though far from disappointing, the English translation isn't overly convincing either. I noticed a few spelling and syntax errors that should have been avoided.
Running Out of Time Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Most unfortunately, there are no supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc.
Running Out of Time Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Johnnie To's Running Out of Time is a fast, original, hugely entertaining film, one of the very best produced by Milkyway Image. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Kam & Ronson Enterprises, represents a strong upgrade in terms of video and audio quality. Do not hesitate to upgrade your SDVD releases, folks. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Running Out of Time Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Johnnie To's Running Out of Time Coming to Blu-ray - May 6, 2011
Hong Kong-based distributors Kam & Ronson Enterprises have revealed that they will release on Blu-ray acclaimed director Johnnie To's Running Out of Time (1999), starring Andy Lau (Running on Karma, House of Flying Daggers), Lau Ching Wan (Mad Detective, Overheard), ...
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