[box cover]

Time and Tide

If you think movies are more self-aware nowadays, you can thank all of the directors who cut their teeth on home video or used to work at Blockbuster. Thanks to folks like Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson, ripping off your heroes has never been so fashionable, and the line between homage and outright theft has become more and more blurred — especially if you throw in all of the recent remakes and (shudder) "re-imaginings." Thank goodness then for people like Tsui Hark — his Time and Tide (2000) reveals a filmmaker who is a student of cinema, yet knows how to adopt other people's ideas without turning his picture into a cut-and-paste version of somebody else's. The story is deceptively simple: Tyler (Singer/actor Nicholas Tse, who also provides two songs on the soundtrack) is a hip young wastrel bartender who just wants a road to the easy life. But also likes courting danger, so he takes a job as a security guard. Though Tyler dreams of a tropical paradise, he wants to take care of the woman (Fashion model Cathy Tsui) he got pregnant while both were drunk, but she's a police detective and a lesbian. Tyler keeps crossing paths with Jack (Cantonese pop star Wu Bai, who also does soundtrack duties), a butcher whose wife (HK songstress Candy Lo) is pregnant as well, and as the three become friends, Jack looks out for Tyler. What Tyler doesn't know is that Jack used to be a hit man — one of the best — and his old gang, led by the sadistic Miguel (Joventino Couto Remotigue), want Jack to pull off one last hit for them. Time and Tide, like most of Tsui Hark's modern action films, is so hyper-stylized that the plot appears to not even take the back seat to the visuals, but has to hitch a ride from someone else. There is a story here, and Hark explores the character's dualities, but he's too busy experimenting with filmmaking styles to make everything easy to follow — it simply doesn't interest him. There is substance under the film's glossy exterior, but some may find the film tedious. Sampling the look and tone of Wong Kar-Wai, names and ideas from Fight Club and The Professional, and commenting on the entire school of John Woo filmmaking that he helped create (he produced not only The Killer, which brought Woo to American audiences, but A Better Tomorrow which gave birth to the John Woo style), Hark creates a curious mixture of ideas that's exciting to watch, even though it runs out of some steam by the high-pitched conclusion (and the second half is nearly non-stop action). Still, for its faults, action movies need more directors like Tsui Hark and films like this. Columbia TriStar's Time and Tide is presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), and those accustomed to seeing passable Hong Kong prints will be delighted at how great this film looks on DVD. Audio is available in both dubbed English and the original Cantonese, and both as DD 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. The main bonus is Tsui Hark's first audio commentary, which unfortunately is quite dull. Filmographies, trailer gallery. Keep-case.

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