Time & Tide (Seunlau ngaklau)
directed by Tsui Hark
(Columbia TriStar, 2000)

Frank Swietek calls it "a rabid dog of a movie," Jeffrey M. Anderson "a stunner that out-summers all the other American summer movies so far," and Rob "Splicedwire" Blackwelder a "thrilling kinetic barrage of brilliant Hong Kong action."

What is this juggernaut of cinema that brings out the metaphorist in movie critics from coast to coast? Godfather IV? Dawson's Creek: The Movie?

Nope. It's Time & Tide, yet another in a series of action films from the man who's been called the Roger Corman of the Far East action movie: Tsui Hark.

Time & Tide has been called every name in the book -- good and bad -- by every critic who's taken two hours to look at it. Mostly it's called "high-speed." But that doesn't come close. Others say it moves at the speed of light. Warp speed strikes me as a better fit, though even that falls short.

In the space of 116 minutes, Tsui, who co-wrote the script, introduces us to a half-dozen characters, few of whose names we can catch, and leads us through several assassination attempts, a drug cartel raid, an assault on an apartment complex, an explosion and fire, a SWAT team attack, a runaway train, an attack on the train station, a stadium catwalk shootout and two pregnancies, one of which ends in a hospital delivery room and one of which doesn't.

The one which doesn't ends with the baby being born in the station while it's under attack. When critics say Tsui delivers, they're not kidding.

All this, of course, fails to answer the operative question, "Should I watch this thing?" The answer is yes. And no.

Yes, if you like films where the action takes place so fast you don't really have time to get set for it or react to it. Time & Tide is a series of setpieces, of which the most notable is the attack on the apartment complex. It features lots of scenes of sweaty guys with large guns rappelling up and down inner and outer walls long after they've been hit by more bullets than most humans can handle.

No, if you're looking for something with a little logic or character development, though Time & Tide does present some interesting scenarios, at least at the outset.

Tyler (Nicholas Tse) is a 21-year-old part-time bartender who decides it's time to make some real money after his one-night stand with lesbian undercover drug cop Ah Jo introduces him to the world of paternity. (I told you it was an interesting scenario). But Ah (Cathy Tsui) wants nothing to do with Tyler, or the money he makes working as a bodyguard for Uncle Ji (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang), a loan shark who puts his debtors to work whipping guns out at people.

Tyler lands and loses a job defending a Hong Kong drug lord, which is where he meets Jack (Wu Bai), a.k.a. Juan, a Taiwanese mercenary whose past is about to come up and bite him and his pregnant wife (Candy Lo) where they can least afford it.

You see, Jack's pregnant wife is the daughter of the Hong Kong drug lord Tyler was hired to protect. But the drug lord has no interest in his son-in-law -- the only ones with an interest in Jack are his former South American drug-running compatriots, who turn up in Hong Kong in hopes of bringing Jack back into the fold.

And if you think you're lost now, just wait 'til you watch the movie. Which I recommend, provided you have the time and the ambition.

After all, Tyler and Jack make a great pair, the cars all blow up real good and Hong Kong never looked so radiant, especially in the sequence where bodyguard Tyler drives his annoying client to the airport in record time -- in reverse. Oh, and the whole film is framed with a rather sweet, if somewhat ironic, meditation on the creation.

More than this you can't ask for. Though, if you're like me, you might want less.

[ by Miles O'Dometer ]
Rambles: 20 July 2002

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