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Now’s the Time to Grab Arrow Video’s Running Out of Time 1 & 2 Blu-ray Release!

Feature Presentations: Episode 37

Welcome to my column dedicated to the appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. Today’s article will focus on the two-disc set for Running out of Time and its sequel from Arrow Video.

Blu-ray case for Running Out of Time 1 & 2

As a disclaimer of transparency, Arrow Video supplied a review copy of Running Out of Time 1 and 2 for reviewAll thoughts and opinions are my own for this episode of Feature Presentations.

For 2022, I set a goal for myself: expand my cinematic horizon and check out films that had escaped me up to this point. No one can claim to have seen every movie ever made from every country. It’s a statistical impossibility, especially in this day and age when new films seem to be released daily. And while I know I won’t hit every cinematic offering—I’m working my way down different avenues that Hollywood and those outside of Hollywood offer.

Today, I’m venturing into Hong Kong cinema with director Johnnie To‘s Running Out of Time and Running Out of Time 2.

Johnnie To is a director whose name I’ve heard many times over the years; Quentin Tarantino championing his work but was a filmmaker whose output I had yet to see. Now that I’ve seen his one-two punch of action films headlined by Lau Ching Wan, I know I’ll be mining his filmography in the future.

Running Out of Time tells the tale of Cheung Wah, a criminal with late-stage cancer who plays a 72-hour game with police negotiator Ho Sheung-sang. The setup sounds formulaic and standard; To’s energetic direction and well-cast chemistry with the two leads help the film stand out among many crowded films within the action genre.Cheung in the driver's seat with Ho in the backseat, holding a gun.

The second entry follows Ho Sheung-sang as he matches wits with a nameless thief extorting money while playing theatrical games with the police negotiator. While the first film played as an action/thriller first with touches of humor, Running Out of Time 2 leans harder into the sillier aspects. Sometimes this works, and others, it doesn’t. For the sequel, it’s a bit too goofy, and the antagonist for the sequel, played by Ekin Cheng, is no match for Andy Lau’s Cheung Wah.

The packaging comes with a slipcover featuring newly-created artwork highlighting both films. The Blu-ray case comes with a reversible art wrap: one featuring the slipcover design and the other with original theatrical designs. To get the best of both worlds, if I have the slipcover, I’ll flip the reversible art wrap that way, I get to see both designs provided by Arrow Video.

Arrow Video also included a 19-page booklet featuring an essay, “On the Edge: Connection, Isolation, and Identity in Running Out of Time 1 & 2″ by David West. West discusses the state of Hong Kong in the late 1990s after British rule ended and the struggle of Hong Kong cinema. West goes in-depth about the characters in both films, from the cop/criminal appreciation of the original to the homoerotic relationship in the sequel. The booklet and essay help cement such a thorough package that Arrow Video gave the Running Out of Time films.

The first disc features the original 1999 film and comes with multiple extras. The first: a 2003 interview filmed by Spectrum Films with screenwriters Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud, has the writers talking in great detail about how the script came to be and the difficulties of making such a production. The two men detail their darker initial draft, the elongated shooting schedule, and working with Johnnie To and Andy Lau. Shot with a handheld camera and on the waterfront, it took a minute to get used to this interview. I quickly grew accustomed to it due to Carbon and Courtiaud’s detailed remembrances of making the film. Both writers speak their native French during this interview with English subtitles.

Arrow Video includes a second interview with the screenwriting duo, shot in 2005 and filmed by Tai Seng Films. For this feature, Carbon and Courtiaud participate in a question and answer period about the films and their careers. Carbon and Courtiaud talk about details from their 2003 interview, but questions submitted also branch outside of Running Out of Time. While this interview is more professional, shot inside with multiple cameras, I preferred the 2003 chat. Both writers here feel slightly stilted in their answers and plays more like a puff piece, even though it is the longer of the two. Not to say this is a bad interview, while both serve a purpose; the 2003 discussion spoke more to me.

Arrow Video also included a 2003 interview from Spectrum Films with director Johnnie To. To’s interview is one of the more honest interviews I’ve watched in quite some time. He dishes on working with non-Hong Kong writers, the elongated production schedule, and his thoughts about the film’s two stars. I don’t want to go into the honesty he dispels, as I feel it’s something you should discover on this disc, but To has thoughtful words to say, especially about Andy Lau. As a side note, this interview has French subtitles burned into the feature. Arrow Video notes that they could not remove these and blurred them out and added English subtitles in place.

A masked criminal holds a gun to a hostage's head.

Piggybacking off Johnnie To’s interview, Arrow Video included a 2003 interview with Lau Ching-wan, shot in the same manner with the burned subtitles. Those looking for a thorough behind-the-scenes look from the star will be sorely disappointed. Not to say this isn’t a good interview; we get some words about filming Running Out of Time and its sequel, then a more thorough breakdown of Lau Ching-wan’s career and thoughts on the moviemaking system. Even though the interview wasn’t what I expected, it turned into something more intriguing and appreciative for its inclusion.

The last interview on the disc, also shot in 2003 by Spectrum Films, is a sit-down with composer Raymond Wong. Like the previous interviews, this discussion moves beyond Running Out of Time. Chow discusses his history, working with Johnnie To, and his thoughts on the Hong Kong film and music industry. The one issue that some people might have with this discussion comes from shooting in a restaurant with Chow eating. I didn’t mind this, as it gave a feeling of sitting and chatting with an old friend, but watching Chow devour an entire meal might make some roll their eyes.

Next is a short featurette about the screenwriters from the same 2005 Tai Seng interview. Producer Tsui Hark, director Daniel Lee, Michelle Yeoh, Lau Ching-wan, and Wong Kar-wai discuss working with creators outside Hong Kong. While there isn’t much detail to absorb, it’s a fascinating watch to see and hear the collaborative spirit of people whose lives are on opposite sides of the globe. It’s also a welcome surprise to see Michelle Yeoh and Wong Kar-wai pop up on this feature!

The disc for Running Out of Time also comes with two feature-length audio commentaries: one featuring Asian film expert Frank Djeng and the second with the screenwriters Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud.

The man can talk, and talk he does. Frank Djeng’s commentary is packed from beginning to end with Hong Kong history and cinema information. Digging into the history of those in front and behind the camera, Djeng proves he knows his stuff. From discussing themes through the works of Johnnie To, including the attraction between the two main characters and the positive critical reception Running Out of Time achieved, this is the type of track I yearn for on every disc.

The second commentary is an archival track featuring the screenwriters Laurent Courtiaud and Julien Carbon, moderated by Hong Kong film expert Stefan Hammond. While Djeng’s track is pulsating with life and information, this discussion is slower and more methodical in its approach. Courtiaud and Carbon approach this chat by discussing themes and ideas conveyed through the script. Most of what the screenwriters discuss is touched upon elsewhere on the disc. Not to say this track is worth skipping, but the three participants offer enough for a listen—just be aware that the commentary flows more mellow than the feature or Djeng’s audio commentary.

The Thief looks to his right with the city behind him.

Rounding out this disc, Arrow Video has included Running Out of Time‘s theatrical trailer and a gallery featuring 32 stills from the finished film and marketing images.

Moving on to the disc for Running Out of Time 2, Arrow Video has included a featurette shot during the film’s production. While there are some behind-the-scenes moments within this making-of, most of it features interviews with Lau Ching-wan and Ekin Cheng. Both men speak highly about the film and discuss their characters in-depth. It’s short and sweet.

The next feature is the disc’s highlight: “Hong Kong Stories” is a 50-plus-minute documentary about Hong Kong Cinema mythology by Yves Montmayeur. “Hong Kong Stories” follows the writers Laurent Courtiaud and Julien Carbon around Hong Kong as they discuss working in the area, its influences, and its history. The featurette on the disc for Running Out of Time is a condensed version of this documentary. And while this feature has pacing issues, for some reason, there’s a detour into talking about a gruesome murder in Kowloon; it’s still a fascinating watch, both to hear from the screenwriters and a look at the area of Hong Kong as a whole. The one issue I have stems from Arrow Video chopping up this documentary and claiming the condensed version as a different feature on the disc for Running Out of Time.

As with the first film, Frank Djeng contributes a feature-length audio commentary to Running Out of Time 2. Djeng does an excellent job dolling out tidbits regarding the feature film throughout the commentary’s runtime. There’s a balance during this track between production information, film history, and details of Hong Kong. I also appreciated the defense Djeng brought about towards the sequel, even if I don’t entirely agree. As with the Djeng’s commentary on the first film, I walked away from the sequel with an appreciation for Hong Kong cinema and factoids about the sequel.

The disc closes out with the inclusion of the film’s theatrical trailer and an image gallery featuring stills from the finished film and marketing photos.

Ho walks down a street drinking from a bottle and holding a bucket.

And there you have it! Johnnie To’s Running Out of Time 1 and 2 gets a lavish, one-two punch of a release courtesy of Arrow Video. This two-disc release contains plenty for fans of these films to sink their teeth into via multiple audio commentaries, interviews, and documentaries. If you’re a fan of Andy Lau, Johnnie To, or Hong Kong cinema, this is a release you want to add to your collection!

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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