Running Out Of Time 2 (HK 2001)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 5/5/10
Produced And Directed By: Johnnie To
Cast: Lau Ching Wan, Ekin Chen, Kelly Lin

A sequel to the award winning "Running Out Of Time" (1999), with a suave and impish Ekin Chen instead of Andy Lau. Chen plays a magician who decides to extort a large corporation by stealing several objects and ransoming them for 100 million dollars. The timing is extremely inconvenient, as the company is about to complete a highly profitable merger with another company, and they can't let anyone know about the extortion plot. However, it turns out that Inspector Ho (sharp looking Lau Ching Wan) has been illegally tapping Kelly Lin's phone for some reason, and knows all about the crime. He is determined to catch the slippery crook, and Chen is all too willing to outsmart and humiliate Ho in a playful game of cat and mouse. The downbeat ending is curious, considering how whimsical and lighthearted the rest of the film is.

I begrudgingly gave this film three stars instead of two based on its cinematic quality. It's a very well made and good looking film, and while there's nothing technically wrong with it, I just didn't enjoy it very much. The production values are high and the majority of the film revolves around the considerable charms and talents of Lau Ching Wan and Ekin Chen as they constantly try to outwit each other. However, Chen's motivation remains a mystery throughout, which makes it difficult to develop any empathy for him. Lovely Kelly Lin is on hand as a bitchy beauty, which she handles perfectly. While the plot features some clever moments and always keeps you guessing, it also devolves into unnecessary silliness. The bald eagle sub-plot immediately springs to mind, which is utterly ridiculous and adds nothing to the story other than disdain and disbelief. The tightrope act is also unfortunate and absurd, but I suppose it fits in with the whimsical tone of the film. I guess I would classify it as a comedy thriller, although it's handled with such a calm and gentle hand that everything comes across as rather bland. You would never guess this came out of Hong Kong, let alone Johnnie To. Definitely a curiosity, as well as an interesting reflection on the Hong Kong film industry as it struggles to re-invent itself and remain relevant.