Running Out of Time 2 (2001) / Action-Thriller
aka Am zin 2

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 to R for violence and language
Running Time: 95 min.

Cast: Lau Ching Wan, Ekin Cheng, Kelly Lin, Shiu Hung Hui, Lam Suet

Wing-cheong Law (w/Johnny To)
Screenplay: Au Kin Yee, Yau Nai-Hoi
Review published September 20, 2002

Although the directing credits go to two directors, I can't imagine Johnny To (Fulltime Killer, Love on a Diet) did much, if anything, in this sequel to his terrific Running Out of Time.  That's not just because this version is inferior; it's the directorial style itself that is completely different, technically speaking (and thematically too). 

There are some root elements that are the same.  Lau Ching Wan (Victim, Lifeline) returns as the cop on the chase, and the bad guy (Cheng, Help!!!) plays games with him for the entire movie, but otherwise expect little else in the way of familiarity.  Although enjoyable on an entertainment level, Running Out of Time 2 is a disappointing, nonsensical style-over-substance action flick, and is further example of why Hong Kong cinema has been on the decline in the last five years.

Inspector Ho is back in action, this time chasing a magician who is using his craft to steal valuable art pieces and hold them for ransom so that he can use the money for philanthropic good will.  He enjoys the chase, and teases Ho into playing all sorts of cat-and-mouse activities in order to entertain himself. 

While the first film was stylish, it still fell within the realm of plausibility, and the action was dark, gritty and exciting.  In this film, everything is played completely for laughs, thrills or titillation, and the only enjoyment seems to come in watching how far they are willing to stretch their imagination to conceive of the action pieces.  Some are laughably bad, such as when Inspector Ho and friend drive around Hong Kong chasing an American bald eagle.  Some are inspired, like a chase on bicycles that evokes laughs the proper way, tongue firmly planted in cheek.  While I initially found myself frustrated that Running Out of Time 2 wasn't the quality that the first film was, eventually I gave in to the ridiculousness and enjoyed it for what it was:  dumb fun.

If you are thinking of watching Running Out of Time 2 only because you really liked the slick efficiency of the first film, I'd say you're wasting your time.  However, if you like dumb action films, especially ones supercharged with over-the-top stylistics, you might get some mileage through the pull-out-all-stops frivolity that plays for laughs more than as an intelligent drama.  It's such a departure as a sequel that I think it seems almost false advertising to slap the "2" on the end of it.  Perhaps a more appropriate title would have been Running Out of Ideas.

Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo