The Austin Chronicle

Time and Tide

Rated R, 111 min. Directed by Tsui Hark. Starring Jr, Couto Remotigue, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Cathy Tsui, Candy Lo, Wu Bai, Nicholas Tse.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 6, 2001

Astonishing and exhilarating, Time and Tide marks a return to form for Tsui, “the Roger Corman of Hong Kong filmmaking,” who spent the latter half of the Nineties putting Belgian bootboy Jean Claude Van Damme through his high kicks in Double Team and the foolishly titled Knock Off. Don't get me wrong: Van Damme is a terrific action man … for me to poop on, as Triumph the Insult Comic Shaolin Monk would say. That hellish slate is wiped clean once and for all with this mind-boggling and terrifically thrilling slice of cinematic chaos, and not a heartbeat too soon. Ostensibly another HK guns 'n' lovers thriller with redundant action set-pieces, Time and Tide offers a far deeper level of satisfaction to those willing to immerse themselves in its (very) complexly plotted world. Shot through with plenty of stylistic and editing tricks (Tsui has never met a pink gel of stuttering slo-mo shootout he didn't like), the opening passages feel like an underhanded homage to Wong Kar Wai, with bartender Tyler (Tse) falling for lesbian undercover cop Jo (Tsui), who he inadvertently knocks up. Nine months later Tyler quits his bar gig and joins a private strong-arm group lead by Wong's batty Uncle Ji. They don't trust the young rookie enough to even give him a loaded pistol; he gets a firing-pin-filed fake, which, of course leads to all manner of gunless wonder. Tyler sheepishly slips his tough-guy earnings under Jo's door, but she's having none of it and wants nothing to do with the errant dad. Meanwhile, Tyler's falling in with a group of Spanish-speaking Hong Kong superthugs, who are planning to off Uncle Ji. At least, I think that's what's happening -- Tsui's plotting is even more convoluted than his previous work, if such a thing is possible. There's a stolen duffel bag chock-full of greenbacks; Tyler's buddy Jack, another stone-cold killer (or is he?); and, believe it or not, another nine-months-pregnant woman running loose. At one point, Tyler has to deliver one of these kids during the height of a bloody shootout. “What should I do?” he asks Mom No. 1. “Cut the umbilical cord. Use your teeth,” she calmly replies. And then the battle continues. The final act of Time and Tide, set within the sterile white confines of a hospital, rivals John Woo's glorious masterpiece Hard-Boiled for sheer cinematic chutzpah. Tsui, with his penchant for using goofy Asian teen-pop stars on both the soundtrack and in lead roles (Tse, Wu, and Lo are all HK and mainland heartthrobs, the Asian equivalent of 98 Degrees and Britney Spears), undercuts his seriousness by doing so; Time and Tide is like vintage Woo on some uncontrollable hallucinogen. No, scratch that, it's like Tsui Hark reborn from the ashes of his sojourn into Hollywood pap, flying high minus the wirework theatrics and loving every freaky frame. Lyrical like the staccato echo of a Tec-9 round ricocheting off a concrete parking garage abutment (set-piece No. 2, by the way), this single film beats every other Hollywood action film of the past five years, hands down. It's not even close. Welcome back, Mr. Tsui.

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