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亡命鴛鴦 (1988)
On the Run

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 08/07/2005
Summary: As good a crime drama as you will see

In the universe created by Alfred Cheung in “On the Run”, if killer for hire Chiu (brilliantly portrayed by Pat Ha) targets you there are two choices: wait until she show up and shoots you in the middle of the forehead or commit suicide. Choosing the latter will at least allow you to decide the manner and time of your departure, but there is no hope of escaping with your life.

The coming handover and the feelings of anomie and dislocation it causes among Hong Kong residents looms over all the action. Yuen Biao plays Heung Ming, a moral cop who only wants to be able to emigrate to the U. S. His ticket out is his wife—they are in the process of divorcing, but if they put that on hold she can sponsor him after she arrives in the United States. For reasons made known later in the movie, his wife is shot by a professional assassin in a restaurant a few minutes after Ming leaves her table.

The Hong Kong police force is unbelievably corrupt and evil in “On the Run”. Entire divisions are wiped out by competing divisions in a race to acquire enough money to emigrate before 1997. The only people killed are police officers or innocent victims, although an entire barroom full of criminals may have been done away with off camera. The most common method of dispatch is gunfire, generally one well placed shot to the head. Blood spurts from temples and foreheads throughout the movie. Those who aren’t shot are stabbed, beaten to death, thrown from a high window, run over by a truck, slashed with a machette or suffocated while in hospital. Most of the deaths are shown in detail—a bullet entering one temple and exiting the other for example.

The hitwoman played by Pat Ha is the only character who isn’t motivated by a desire to quit Hong Kong—she is an overseas Chinese, living in a village in the Golden Triangle. Actually she doesn’t seem to be motivated by anything—she kills for money but given her the skill, tenacity, and unwavering resolve she should have been able to retire a long time ago. This character works, though, because when she does develop a soft spot for Ming and his daughter it doesn’t contradict anything we know about her—all we know is that she always gets her man or woman, generally with one shot and always escapes.

There is one important point upon which the latter half to the movie hinges that simply could not happen in a U.S. produced movie. In Hong Kong violence and death are inflicted across the board, including upon those who are truly innocent—which is much closer to how things happen off the screen.

Even though the cast is filled with martial arts veterans, there is no hand to hand combat until the last scene. And that scene is extremely well done--you (almost) know who has to win and who has to lose but the combatants are equally enough matched so that even after a lot of shooting, slashing, stabbing, eye gouging, kicking and other ways of inflicting pain on each other the outcome still seems in doubt.

Peter Ngor’s did a wonderful job lighting and shooting the movie. While some of the cinematography calls attention to itself—framing Pat Ha and Yuen Biao in a window for instance, every scene—probably every shot—looks great. There is the usual neon-washed night but generally the palette Ngor and Cheung used is very dark, reflecting the bleak harshness of the script.


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 02/01/2004
Summary: Excellent !

Patricia Ha is so incredibly charismatic throughout..What a performance by her in
this film. Thank you all below for
the convincing reviews you wrote for me to finally view & purchase this
film...I would now rate this out of
over 370 HK films I own, in my TOP 10 HK
movies.....This movie is a keeper!

Reviewed by: Mikestar*
Date: 11/15/2002
Summary: HK Noir at Its Best

Not the type of film you'd expect from actor/producer/writer/director Alfred Cheung, nevertheless a real prize-find.

The film is essentially a Hong Kong variant on film noir, but with some important nuances. In particular the references to 1997 and handover fears inject the film with a strong local and contemporary flavour.

In addition to its intuitive and steady direction the acting performances are highly impressive. Yuen Biao is engaging as a hunted cop on the edge, plunged into the underworld only to be allied with a mysterious assasin.
Pat Ha is equally impacting as the seductive and disconnected hitwomen, drawn into the cop's personal world and his plight.

There is little sense of mythical redemption or romanctic closure in this film, as Cheung portrays Hong Kong as a gritty, corrupt and engulfing cityscape. As in many cop-genre films (particularly those of John Woo) the lines between good and bad are murkily dissolved, where Cheung projects paranoia over an indeterminate post-handover future.

An impacting and often haunting film, the style and narrative of 'On the Run' set it apart and above the average Hong Kong thriller.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 05/21/2002
Summary: Grade A movie making

I've seen the movie three times now. The UK VHS was one of the earlier HK movies I saw, and I thought it was very good. Then I watched it again a few years later, and thought it was much more shoddily made than I remembered it. Third time around, I'm back to my original verdict - a very well made movie, with excellent acting and a script that is very dark and cold by Hong Kong standards. Yuen Biao and Pat Ha end up being brought together by the old favourite, a group of master criminals trying to kill them both. Quite who and why and how I will leave you to discover.

Alfred Cheung's filmography as director and writer tends mostly towards light comedies, so ON THE RUN was definitely a departure of style for him. The movie is shot entirely at night, lots of rain and neon and sharp lighting making for quite an unusual colour palette. The cinematography throughout is excellent. The direction maintains this darkness, sparing little time for sentiment in the relentless flight and pursuit that is both desparate and violent almost from the opening frames.

The intensity of the script is carried through in the excellent performance of Yuen Biao, Pat Ha and Charlie Chin. I don't remember seeing Pat Ha before, but she is excellent here in a female assassin role that may have been a strong influence on Luc Besson's Nikita two years later. Yuen Biao and Charlie Chin both leave their goofy sides at home, and commit a phenomenal intensity to their characters. The movie also features one of those super-cute young child actresses that you just wish they would rent out to play with for an evening once in a while, and a motley crew of old-school martial artists in henchmen roles.

The movie is not particularly action heavy, but the action that occurs is harsh. Pat Ha's trademark is a bullet between the eyes, and no bullet impact is ever left to the viewer's imagination. It's mostly gunplay, and despite all the martial artists in the cast the little hand to hand fighting that occurs is of the brutal 'smash each other up' variety. Very brutal in fact!

Not a lot else to say - an intelligent script that pursues it's dark storyline without unnecessary diversions into comedy or romance or any of the other ingredients that sometimes dilute these things. Visually superb, great soundtrack, and extremely memorable characters and performances. Grade A movie making :).

Unfortunately, the new MegaStar DVD is far from Grade A. Hong Kong DVD quality has taken a noticable forward leap lately, but this disc is one that obviously missed the quality boat. Poor transfer with zero blacks, lots of noise and yet (ironically) excessive noise reduction that results in trails and mush. Well, it's not the worst transfer out there, but it doesn't really do the cinematography justice. Sound and subtitles are reasonable though.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 04/16/2002

Alfred Cheung has directed a few decent films over the course of his career, most of them being comedies such as Her Fatal Ways, or All's Well, Ends Well 97. But nothing else in his filmography would lead you to believe he was capable of delivering a film as polished and stylish as On the Run, a gritty and quite violent crime noir classic which he wrote and directed in 1988. The movie is truly a gem that represents not only one of the creative peaks of HK cinema in the late 80s but also a highlight in the acting career of star Yuen Biao.

Shot mostly at night, the film is awash in colored neon light, reflected in the wet asphalt of HKs urban jungle, bouncing off car windshields, and providing a warm glow through windows and doors, bathing walls and interiors in strong reds or greens. The color composition is lovely, and on more than one occasion I wished I could freeze and print out the image on the screen to hang it on a wall. Cheung uses the environment to perfection, and creates moody, dark settings simply by playing with shadow and light. The closeups are often gorgeously framed and enhanced by natural effects, such as Pat Ha's face behind a screen of rain pouring down a car windshield, or the silhouette of Pat Ha and Yuen Biao against a background of staggered angled walls, each lighted in different colors. It all looks very stylish without ever becoming mannered - and it was shot years before WKW and Christopher Doyle came along...

The story is unrelentingly dark and tense, without ever becoming depressing or moody. And Cheung ensures that the tone of the movie, once established, is carried through in a consistent manner - no comic relief, no jarring concessions to sentiment, no self-referential irony, just honest, direct story-telling in the best film noir tradition.

Yuen Biao plays a CID detective whose wife is brutally assassinated in a restaurant by a lone female killer (Pat Ha). It turns out she had uncovered evidence of wrong-doing by some members of the homicide squad, and so the corrupt police officers ordered the hit to keep her silent. Yuen Biao starts investigating and soon finds the murderer, except that the aforementioned bad guys are trying to silence the hired killer as well - Yuen Biao spoils their plans by saving the killer, which puts him in their crosshairs as well, and soon Yuen Biao and Pat Ha are on the run for their lives, with nowhere to turn to for help.

The action is presented in a realistic manner - no acrobatic gunplay, no fancy moves, no gravity-defying stunts. Pat Ha is convincing as the cold-blooded killer, and Yuen Biao for once gets to act, and does so very impressively: freed from the burden of having to display acrobatic stunts and martial arts prowess, he concentrates on his character and does an execellent job conveying his pain, despair and finally his deadly resolve. There's very little dialog in the scenes between Pat Ha and Yuen Biao, but still a picture of the complex relationship between these two hunted people begins to evolve. The dynamics between the two are quite involving, and I was completely caught up in their story. The bad guys are somewhat more stereotypical, although it helps that Charlie Chin as the lead villain gives a very calm, subdued performance that is all the more menacing precisely because he doesn't overact his role.

A lot of people die in this movie, including some characters who would be untouchable in a Hollywood film. The final showdown is extremely gritty and violent. Unfortunately, the movie ends right after this final fight, with only a screen caption giving a grim, bleak update on the fate of the survivors. Supposedly, there is a longer version of the film that includes an extended epilogue, but it's not on this Megastar dvd (with a running time of about 84 minutes).

I had very very high expectations for this movie, and I was still blown away by how good the film actually is. This is a must-see for any HK movie fun. Very strongly recommended.

Reviewed by: stuntpeople
Date: 03/20/2002
Summary: HK Gem

I can't deny that this is Biao's best overall performance, I sat through this movie and I'll do it again. I've watched the end fight 10 times already just for its sheer brutailty and realism. Never seen Biao so angry before. Righting Wrongs was nothing compared to this.

Reviewed by: runo_jp
Date: 06/12/2001
Summary: On the run

Film Noir. Lots of action, and few hope in this tale, where everyone is doomed whatever they do. There is also a real tragic atmosphere I cannot find in the same kind of movie done by Hollywood.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/05/2001
Summary: One of Yuen biao's best

A very violent movie where Yuen Biao is being chased but crooked cops!! The last fight scene is great!! There is not kung fu but just good old fashion fist cuffs!! A entertaining and dark film with a sad ending which you read.........


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: SUPERCOP
Date: 12/25/1999
Summary: One of the best in the genre.....

Alfred Cheung Kin-ting directs this feverishly paced crime noir that is one of the finest in the genre. Yuen Biao stars as Lo Huan, a Hong Kong police officer who unfoils a dangerous conspiracy that results in the assassination of his ex-wife. As it turns out, his ex-wife had an ongoing affair with his own corrupt superintendent, and when she learnt of his behind the scenes heroin ring, he simply arranged a hit and had her brushed off. The hired gun, Ah Chui, performs the job with the greatest of ease, but for various reasons, is next on the superiors hit list. Now on the run, Ah Chui accidentally confronts Lo Huan, who eventually sheds his grief and teams up with the woman to take down the corruption in the force. What follows is a high stakes cat and mouse game that leads to a brutally violent conclusion, leaving no one unscathed.

On the Run is perhaps known best for providing Yuen Biao with his finest performance to date. His portrayal as the troubled moralistic cop is dead on, combining both superb restraint and expressive emotions. Ah Biao's female counterpart, Pat Ha, gives a noteworthy acting job, and is completely believable as a cold and calculated hitwoman, only to have human feelings and emotions to get in the way of her career. Also appearing in supporting roles is veteran Taiwanese actor Charlie Chin, who co-stars as the corrupt superintendent, and fellow Peking Opera schoolmate Yuen Wah, who appears as one of his cronies.

Director Cheung doesn't disappont either, and perfectly complements the gloomy theme with dark cinematography which takes place in the black, Hong Kong horizon dimly litted with the traditional glow of neon lights. It is almost impossible to not be absorbed in the mood by the cinematography. The writing also plays a large part in setting the theme. The script is masterfully crafted, moving at lightning pace, providing the viewer with plenty of suspense and surprises to glue the them to the television for the 90 minute duration. All in all, you won't find pretentious, incomprehensible wannabe filmmaking crap in the tradition of Michael Bay, just pure talented directors and writers at full force.

Of course, novices to Hong Kong films will immediately typecast this as standard, martial arts action fare. Well, it's just pure ignorance on their part. Aside from an incredible pole-slide stunt performed by Yuen Biao, all of the action is played straight. The fight finale between Yuen Biao and Charlie Chin's henchmen is nothing but intense brutality and realism at play. Fluid, acrobatic choreography is the last thing you should expect. In the case of On the Run, that is a good thing. Any type of cartoon- like Jackie Chan action will just ruin every theme the film is trying to convey. Thankfully the filmmakers didn't bite to mass appeal just like so many others in this entertainment world today.

Overall, On the Run is a milestone achievement in Hong Kong filmmaking. Multiple viewings is absolutely required for this masterpiece, and of course, I highly recommend this overlooked gem to anybody itching to get out of the Jackie Chan/ John Woo mode.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

Pat Ha plays a tough nihilistic killer with perhaps just a hint of aheart of gold. Biao is a burned out cop who is unjustly accused of his ex-wife's murder and must solve it before his corrupt fellow cops catch up with him.

[Reviewed by Tai Seng Catalog]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

This is a crime drama in which he, as a police, is, "on the run" with a female killer (played by Wen-shi Sha). From every aspect of filmmaking, "On the Run" is one of the best HK crime drama ever made. In this movie, you don't see kung-fu, but solid action and the final fighting sequence is very realistic. Very moody and stylish, and IMHO, it's to some degree better than most of John Woo's works.

[Reviewed by kjdoom]