Time and Tide
Director: Tsui Hark
Stars: Nicholas Tse, Wu Bai, Anthony Wong, Cathy Tsui, Candy Lo, Joe Lee, Jack Kao
A young slacker named Tyler (Nicholas Tse) knocks up a lesbian (Cathy Tsui) during a one-night stand. Even though the woman won't have anything to do with him, Tyler decides to help the baby out and takes a job as a bodyguard, working for former police officer Uncle Ji (Anthony Wong). Tyler is assigned to protect the daughter of a prominent businessman (Candy Lo) and soon develops a relationship with her husband, a mysterious man named Jack (Wu Bai). After Uncle Ji's team fails at one of its' jobs, Tyler becomes a prime suspect until Jack -- and the ghosts from his past in the form of a group of high-class criminals -- enters the picture.
Tsui Hark is one of the most influential and successful filmmakers to ever come out of Hong Kong. Helming such movies as Zu and Once Upon a Time in China and working behind the scenes on films like A Better Tomorrow and the Swordsman trilogy have garnered Tsui a large body of work and the (sometimes misleading) nickname of "the Steven Spielberg of Hong Kong." Though he continues to have success as a producer (recently negotiating a major deal for US/HK co-production with the US studio Columbia) his last few films as director have failed to make a mark with both critics and audiences, reaching an all-time low with 1998's Jean-Claude Van Damme disaster Knock Off. The movie was a mess from beginning to end. It failed to deliver even some decent action, instead concentrating more of flashy camerawork rather than telling a story. Some critics have theorized that Tsui was actually using Columbia's money to expieriment with techniques instead of trying to make a movie. Now, if this is true, I applaud Tsui for having the balls to do so (especially with a big deal with Columbia looming), but it still doesn't excuse the fact that Knock Off was a bad movie. So when Time and Tide came out and was met right away with comparisons with Knock Off, I was a bit hesitant to check it out.
Thankfully, Time and Tide isn't as bad as Knock Off. Despite some problems, it's a good movie -- so let's get those out of the way first. The script, like too many action movies lately, tries to throw too many elements into the pot and the taste of the movie becomes a bit muddled as a result. Time and Tide can't seem who to follow in the story, Tyler or Jack, and as such both characters are a bit underdeveloped. The cinematography sometimes becomes a bit too much, almost going into Blair Witch territory as the camera whips and shakes about.
On the other side of the coin, at times the camerawork is stunning, really putting the viewer into the action. Speaking of action, there's some good stuff in Time and Tide, particularly a shootout/sniper standoff in a crowded apartment building that manages to deliver plenty of thrills without huge explosions or a huge body count (though the movie is plenty violent in parts -- Tsui definetly has not lost his touch in showing just enough gore to excite an audience but not so much as to disgust). The expository scenes are also handled well, as all the actors do a good job. Nic Tse is his usual amiable self, Anthony Wong puts in a rare stint (at least for him these days, as he seems to take any role for a paycheck) where he doesn't seem to be phoning in his lines, Cathy Tsui and Cathy Jo provide strong female leads (never turning into whiny, needy crybabies), and Wu Bai puts on a mesmerizing performance as the conflicted Jack.
Okay, it's not a masterpiece -- it's probably not even something you're likely to remember a few years down the road. But Time and Tide is a good film, delivering action, suspense and a little bit of romantic comedy and even a smidgen of social commentary as well. With the dearth of mindless and poorly done action movies hitting theatres recently, you could do a lot (and I mean a whole lot) worse than Time and Tide, unless looking at poorly animated CGI mummies is your idea of fun.
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