On The Run (HK 1988)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 10/17/04
Producer: Samo Hung
Director: Alfred Cheung
Cast: Yuen Biao, Pat Ha, Lo Lieh, Philip Ko, Yuen Wah

An excellent girls with guns crime drama from producer Samo Hung at the top of his game. Hsiang Ming (mousy Yuen Biao) is a small-time cop whose estranged wife (a big-time cop) is murdered by a highly skilled Thai assassin (super sexy Pat Ha). It turns out that the hit was ordered by her own people, who decide to double-cross the assassin to keep her quiet. Seeking justice and revenge, Ming finds the assassin, only to become another target for the corrupt police force. Forced to work together to survive, Ming and the assassin form an uneasy alliance that eventually blossoms into an innocently awkward romance. Too bad there's no happy ending in sight...

It's films like this that remind me why I love (or used to love) Hong Kong cinema so much. The film is dark and brutal, the actors are brilliant, the action is top notch, and the cinematography is superb. The lighting is particularly beautiful and sets the perfect look and mood for the film. Although Alfred Cheung is listed as the director, I wouldn't be surprised if Corey Yuen Kwei was also involved. While a lot of veteran kung fu players are in the film, there's no kung fu in the film to speak of. The climactic fight is an ugly and brutal close quarters brawl completely free of form, style, and acrobatics. It's just intricately choreographed raw rage. But the real treat in the film is the deadly and beautiful Pat Ha. Drop-dead gorgeous and drop-dead serious, she handles a gun with supreme confidence and efficiency. She's one of the best hitwomen I've seen put to film, with a cold and calculating exterior that shields a jaded, but warm and nurturing young woman. Her philosophy on life is made clear with her statement "life is cheap, and earrings are dear." Likewise, Hsiang Ming isn't a model citizen either, as he seems more upset with the fact that he can't emigrate than he is over the loss of his wife. The film ends abruptly with a blurb about the fates of our two leads, making you wonder if this is a "true crime" story, or just a gimmick.