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With: Nicholas Tse, Cathy Chu, Wu Bai, Candy Lo, Anthony Wong, Joventino Couto
Written by: Tsui Hark, Koan Hui
Directed by: Tsui Hark
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong violence and brief drug use
Language: Cantonese with English subtitles
Running Time: 113
Date: 09/05/2000

Time and Tide (2000)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The 'Time' of Your Life

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Tsui Hark has never been known for making contemporary crimestories. His most famous works, Once Upon a Time in China,Peking Opera Blues, Swordsman II, and The Blade, fallinto the period movie genre. His short foray into Hollywood and thecontemporary crime movie produced two poorly received Jean-Claude VanDamme movies, Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998). So it's asurprise to see Tsui's new Hong Kong film, Time and Tide, succeed sobeautifully.

Then again, it's not really a surprise. Though Tsui can be considered a scattershot director, with 60-odd films in 20 years, he's still a vicious talent who nearly always delivers films at least worth looking at. He's been likened to a Hong Kong Roger Corman, but I like to think of him as someone a little more prestigious, like Allan Dwan, who not only worked fast, but also ended up with a few accidental classics along the way.

Tsui seems to be starting from scratch with Time and Tide. Instead of using any of his usual stars like Chow Yun Fat or Bridget Lin, he starts with a young pop star (Nicholas Tse) and a model (Cathy Chu). Tse plays Tyler, a part-time bartender who meets up with lesbian cop Jo (Chu) after being dumped and on the rebound. The two go out for a drinking binge and nine months later, Jo turns up pregnant. Tyler gets a job as a rookie bodyguard with an unlicensed company, brandishing a fake gun until he's broken in. He attempts to slip the money he's earned under Jo's door, even though she wants nothing to do with him.

Meanwhile, Tyler's friend Jack (Wu Bai, another rock star) is a retired mercenary with a pregnant wife (Candy Lo, yet another). Jack's former gang comes to Hong Kong, led by a creepy English-speaking, cockroach-burning baddie, and they try to recruit Jack for another job.

That's about when I got lost. But by this time it doesn't much matter if you can follow the plot, because Tsui keeps the movie going so fast and hard that our heads spin with pleasure and delight.

Inside all the razzle-dazzle, Tsui attempts to re-invent the cop movie, to some extent. Several small clues lead me to this conclusion, such as Tyler's fake gun, and another scene when two characters find themselves in a John Woo-type standoff (which Tsui helped to invent), each pointing a gun at the other's head. Normally they stay this way for a while, but here one character smirks while the other simply fires, leaving us stunned in disbelief.

But the real reason to see Time and Tide is the mind-blowing centerpiece, which takes place at an apartment complex that's designed like an inverted pyramid. All of our main characters somehow end up here and use every conceivable nook and cranny to fight and shoot at each other in. Tyler ends up locked in an apartment, while Jack works the stairwell, and two other combatants repel down the outside of the building, firing at each other all the way. Any American director would kill this sequence with routine, illogical storytelling. Tsui makes it magic. You watch and you think, "I've never seen anything like this before."

After sitting through tasteless cardboard flicks like The Mummy Returns and Tomb Raider, Time and Tide feels like eating Pop Rocks or Red Hots, or other sweet, spicy candy. It's a stunner that out-summers all the other American summer movies so far.

DVD Details: Columbia Tri/Star's DVD comes with a director's commentary track, trailers and filmographies. Audio options include English 2.0, English 5.1, Cantonese 2.0 and Cantonese 5.1. with subtitles available in English and French.

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