Running Out of Time 2

Reviewed by YTSL

In his review of the 1999 movie that this 2001 offering is -- at least by way of its title -- recognized as a sequel of, Brian tendered the opinion that: “For those of you who are Milkyway purists, this film may be a slight disappointment. It is not nearly as dark, violent or subversive as most of their earlier films.”  Who could have foreseen some two years ago now that his words would be even more applicable to a then surely unplanned follow-up effort that is much more of a laid-back caper type work than intense crime drama, and which I think will serve as confirmation for many people that Johnnie To and the other Milkyway Image production company folks have gone too soft for their previously die-hard fans’ liking?  Certainly not me.  But then, I’m also someone who had my doubts about liking this (already) much criticized effort shattered for the most part upon my checking out an in-cinema screening of it (at the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema).

Yes, dear reader, you did just correctly read that I -- whose favorite Milkyway Image movies, for the record, are “A Hero Never Dies” and “Where a Good Man Goes” -- did enjoy taking in the not particularly aptly named -- not least since more than one of this rather leisurely paced film’s main characters can seem to act as though they have all the time in the world to spare -- RUNNING OUT OF TIME 2!  And if you’re wondering, I do think that something that undoubtedly contributed to my viewing pleasure of that which undeniably is a light weight piece was the very clean as well as large 35 mm print presentation of Cheng Siu-Keung’s attractively lensed images of Hong Kong’s showcased urban and other landscapes.  Alternatively, a favorable factor that ought to be discernible plus attractive when viewing this Johnnie To and Law Wing-Cheong co-directed film on a small -- not just sizable -- screen is that which stems from a clearly at-the-top-of-his-charismatic-game Lau Ching Wan having the lead role (of Inspector Ho, a plain-clothes police officer who seems to be known for his doggedness and finds himself involved in a cat & mouse contest that -- surprise, surprise! -- does bear certain resemblances to that which he played with Andy Lau’s character in the first “Running Out of Time”).
In RUNNING OUT OF TIME 2, the crime-committing adversary for the often hapless police (whose ranks include the there-largely for-comic-relief Assistant Commissioner essayed by Hui Siu Hung, an incredibly luckless gambling addicted negotiator played by the consistently watchable Lam Suet, and the superior officer essayed by a way too brief appearance making Ruby Wong) is quickly revealed to be someone who has stolen three valuable objects from the company headed by a young woman named Jessica (who is portrayed by the apparently more comfortably English plus Mandarin than Cantonese speaking Kelly Lin).  The ransom demand of the mischievous mystery man with a demonstrated predilection for smoke bombs, magical tricks and ownership of a (largely, if not completely CGI) bald-headed eagle starts off at a cool HK$20 million, then gets raised to a whopping HK$100 million (albeit in duplicate(d) rather than actual bank notes)?  For good measure, the obviously fun as well as money seeking personality (who comes in the form of an actually capable acting Ekin Cheng) also seems intent on thinking up ways of getting Inspector Ho all worked up and -- with a team in tow -- on what amounts to an often frustrating yet nonetheless often quite scenic tour of much of the HKSAR.
The way RUNNING OUT OF TIME 2 proceeds, it doesn’t seem to matter all that much -- not least to the plot hole filled movie’s scriptwriting crew of Yau Nai-Hoi, Au Kin Yee and that which is collectively identified as the Milkyway Creative Team -- whether Ekin Cheng’s character (whose name I never managed to catch) gets what he wants (and returns what he had promised to do), Lau Ching Wan’s Inspector Ho succeeds in capturing his not particularly menacing prey, and what the movie’s nominal villain sought to do with the cash that he hoped to procure using really unorthodox as well as illegal means.  Instead, the main purpose of it all -- rather than just the big thrilling pay off -- for even the most concerned parties involved in the story seems to come from playing what generally, not just ultimately, does get treated very much as a sporting challenge (rather than a majorly serious affair).
As one might expect, this state of affairs is not one that makes for the existence of much mega win-or-lose, never mind live-or-die, type tension and suspense.  Frankly speaking, it also doesn’t make for RUNNING OUT OF TIME 2 being among the most memorable as well as exciting of movies (But then, if truth be further told, I didn’t find the generally tauter feeling ROOT1 to be especially unforgettable either).  On a more positive note, it does allow for a quite good natured and vibe inducing cheeriness to envelope a substantial portion of the Raymond Wong music scored work (that admittedly could have been better than it is, but also could rather easily have been worse; not least by way of containing more (poorly delivered) English language dialogue than it already unfortunately does...).

My rating for this film:  6.5