Ching Wan Lau
Shiu Hung Hui
Yuin Shan Ding
Crime / Action
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Running out of Time 2 (aka Aau chin 2) (2001)
30th Sep 05
Former top hostage negotiator Sang (Lau) has now been promoted to superintendent but is bored with his new desk job. When a mysterious character called Ken attempts to blackmail a large corporation for 20 million dollars, the superintendent soon finds himself lured into a hostage situation and a new high stakes 'cat and mouse' game begins.
If you enjoyed Running Out of Time's comic relief, this sequel may be worth a look. Johnny To's follow-up is a few shades lighter than the first film but follows a very similar path, depicting a frantic game of cat and mouse in the streets of Hong Kong.
Chief Negotiator Inspector Ho is facing yet another challenge. A sophisticated art thief has stolen 3 precious works of art and is holding a huge insurance company to ransom, threatening them with the prospect of losing out on vital business. Meanwhile, Ho has been receiving mysterious packages from an unknown sender - important components for the game he is about to play in his role as ransom deliveryman. And so the game begins.
Fans of the original will miss Andy Lau's undeniable screen magnetism. He was a big part of what made the first instalment worth seeing. His successor, Ekin Cheng, does an excellent turn though, and this time the poignancy of impending death is substituted for the character's twisted cleverness, and in particular his magic. Yes, magic. Poor Inspector Ho has his work really cut out for him this time round, as he is inescapably bound to play the game by someone else's set of rules, this someone else being not only a thief, but a thief who's also a magician, with a fondness for CGI bald eagles. It's a tricky time for Ho then. But he's not the kind of guy to let it get to him, oh no. And it certainly won't put him off his noodles.
Ok, so is Running Out of Time 2 any good? For a sequel, yeah, it works. It really comes down to a matter of taste. Like noodles. While the first film packed more of an emotional punch, this is a safer, more crowd-pleasing affair. It's hard not to warm to the now regular characters all over again, maybe even more so now that we've made their acquaintance before. It's great to see Shui Hung Hui back as Assistant Commissioner Wong, and this time he's ten times as funny. This is what gives the film most of its humour, so we can only assume that his role in the first film went down a treat with audiences, and why the hell shouldn't it? His timing is flawless, and he's got the bungling cop part who is always being made to look stupid by someone he outranks down to a 'T'.
Ching Wan Lau as Inspector Ho shines as he did before. This guy is so good and could be nowhere else but at the centre of the action. Just try not liking him - it's impossible! His relationship with 'The Thief' is again so pleasing to watch and, as with the first film are resonant of the cop/thief relationship dynamics in Heat. There's even more mutual respect this time though, or it appears to be played more obviously, thereby rendering the whole affair as quite light-hearted, jovial almost. It's almost as if you know (and hope) that no one in the film is going to die. It's all just a game. People don't get killed in games, or do they?
At the centre of the film is an excellent chase sequence, which more than deserves a mention. While Ho and Teresa are chasing The Thief's bald eagle across the streets of HK, the pursuit develops and then sees Ho chase The Thief on foot. They stop to catch their breath and when Ho orders a bottle of water from a stall, the Thief, who's across the street, asks for an ice cream from Mr. Softy. They actually give each other a break for light refreshment before continuing! Then, the chase further evolves into a bizarre pushbike affair, which culminates in a fair amount of damage to Ho's bike, rendering it wheel-less. Ho then huffs his way to the local noodle bar for a late feast. The whole thing is superbly staged and even features one of those very HK-flavoured tacky songs we all love to forgive the HK film industry for. It was ok in Woo's The Killer and you know what? It's ok here too.
This stands up well as a sequel. Its sense of subtle style is consistent with the first film while other elements are somewhat different. Ho has a latent love interest with Teresa, for example, but this is played perfectly and never goes anywhere you don't want it to. The humour works nicely but never feels like it gets in the way of the frantic game, and while Running Out of Time 2 could be described as harmless fun, don't be misled that this is some sort of family film. It's just that it doesn't need to be violent or nasty - it works fine without being riddled with bullet holes.