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Running on Karma(2003)
A monk turned body-builder, with the gift to see into people's lives, befriends a female cop, and uses his gift to change the force of Karma and her destiny.
For more about Running on Karma and the Running on Karma Blu-ray release, see Running on Karma Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 2, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Directors: Johnnie To, Ka-Fai Wai
Writers: Nai-Hoi Yau, Ka-Fai Wai, Tin-Shing Yip
Starring: Andy Lau, Cecilia Cheung, Siu-Fai Cheung, Wong Chun, Karen Tong
» See full cast & crew
Running on Karma Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 2, 2011
Winner of Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay Awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards, Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai's "Running on Karma" (2003) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Kam & Ronson Enterprises. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer and a making of featurette. In Cantonese, with optional English and Traditional Chinese subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
A former monk (Andy Lau, Infernal Affairs Trilogy, What Women Want) has moved to Hong Kong and become a striptease dancer. Women adore him but he is single; men respect him but rarely want to talk to him. Both call him Big.
During a police raid, Big is arrested by Detective Lee (Cecilia Cheung, Wu Yen, One Nite in Mongkok), who is immediately attracted to him. Big is also immediately drawn to her. After he is released, the two meet on the streets of Hong Kong and Big offers to help Lee solve a complicated murder case involving an Indian national.
At the murder scene, Big reveals to Lee that he could see people's karma - he can reconstruct their past and see their future. Moments later, he provides a detailed description of the murder, and points Lee in the right direction.
Enormously confused, Lee begins asking questions. And the more answers she gets from Big, the more she begins to realize that he is an amazing man, perhaps the one she should spend the rest of her life with. Later on, however, when she attempts to get closer to him, he gently rejects her.
As the hunt for the killer begins, Big also reveals tiny bits of his life story to Lee - and specifically how a woman he once loved was killed by a savage man, and how he accidentally killed a little bird that changed his life. Big also confesses to Lee that he has sworn to avenge the death of his friend before he leaves the world of the living.
Eventually, Big warms up to Lee and the two have a romantic dinner in the heart of the city. Shortly after that, however, Big sees that Lee's soul is getting ready to leave her body. And so begins a race against time, as he attempts to change her karma.
Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai's Running on Karma is the type of film one needs to see multiple times to fully grasp, and perhaps also appreciate. It begins as an action/thriller but gradually evolves into a supernatural romantic piece where the personalities of the two protagonists dramatically change. Truly, it is one of the most unusual Hong Kong films to be produced in recent years.
The film is fractured into various small episodes, each offering tiny bits of information about Big's fascinating past and the murder case he and Lee are involved with. These bits of information, however, do not appear in chronological order, which is why occasionally it is quite difficult to figure out exactly in what direction the story is heading.
The finale is somewhat ambiguous, as even though the mystery is solved the tone of the film isn't entirely in sync with the dramatic events. However, as it is the case with the best Milkyway Image - director To's production company - films, the atmosphere is fantastic.
The charismatic Lau is terrific as the buff stripper Big, though it has to be said that the muscle suit he wears could have been a lot better. His kung fu skills also could have been polished quite a bit. Cheung is remarkably energetic and entertaining. She looks particularly good with the punk wig on.
Cinematographer Cheung Siu-keung's (Election, Mad Detective) lensing, especially during the period episodes, is excellent. Thanks to Law Wing Cheong's (PTU) competent editing, the film also maintains a steady tempo.
Note: In 2004, Running on Karma won Best Picture, Best Actor (Andy Lau), and Best Screenplay (Wai Ka-Fai, Yau Nai-Hoi, Au Kin-Yee, Yip Tin-Shing) Awards at the annual Hong Kong Film Awards.
Running on Karma 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 and Wai Ka-Fai's Running on Karma arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Kam & Ronson Enterprises.
From all of the recent catalog releases I have seen Kam & Ronson Enterprises produce during the last couple of months, Running on Karma is without a doubt their very best. The transfer for this release is most definitely not without flaws, but its basics are mostly intact. Though overall looking somewhat soft, the image has pleasing detail, while contrast levels are substantially better than they are on the R3 SDVD release of the film. Color reproduction is also a lot more satisfying, especially during the darker scenes - particularly during the nighttime footage from the city and the darker footage from the cave - as well as clarity. This being said, various minor noise corrections appear to have been performed, traces of which are often easy to spot during various close-ups. Still, as mentioned earlier detail is pleasing. Edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern, though the larger your screen is, the easier it will be for you to notice that occasionally it pops up here and there. On the other hand, macroblocking does not plague the transfer at all. Lastly, there are no serious stability issues. I also did not see any large cuts, damage marks, or stains to report in this review. All in all, this is good, though not flawless, presentation of a very unique film. (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 on Karma 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.
The Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track is a good enough reason to seriously consider upgrading your R3 SDVD of Running on Karma. It has a very strong dynamic amplitude and it enhances the key action scenes in the film wonderfully. The bass, in particular, is very strong, while the surround channels are surprisingly effective. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and very easy to follow. For the record, I did not detect any pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts to report in this review. Also, the English translation is good, though there are a few random syntax errors that I noticed during the second half of the film.
Running on Karma Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Running on Karma Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai's Running on Karma is a very strange, very atmospheric film that works on multiple levels. I dare say it is one of the most original films to come out of Milkyway Image. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Kam & Ronson Enterprises, looks and sounds good. If you decide to add the film to your library but reside in a Region-B territory, please keep in mind that this is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. RECOMMENDED.
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