Time & Tide Movie Review
The most cinematically fluid fists-aflyin' guns-ablazin' shoot-em-up in long time, "Time and Tide" is such a funny, thrilling, kinetic barrage of brilliant Hong Kong action that getting totally lost in the plot is almost part of the fun.
Here's what I know for sure: Our streetwise young hipster hero (Nicholas Tse) is trying to score some fast cash working as an unlicensed bodyguard because he wants to do right by a beautiful lesbian cop (Cathy Chui) he got pregnant during a drunken one-night stand. His boss is a loan shark who got into the protection racket to "hire" his debtors to work off the money they owe. Tse befriends a reformed mercenary (Wu Bai), who is being pressured to kill his own father-in-law and eventually targets the mobster Tse is protecting instead. And there is a briefcase full of money.
Beyond those facts, this movie is a 100 mph blur of inventive and wildly entertaining -- but nearly impossible to follow (at least on a first viewing) -- intrigue, gunplay, stunts and martial arts showdowns. Why it works in spite of being so bloody abstruse can only be attributed to the genius of writer-director-genre legend Tsui Hark, the man behind "Chinese Ghost Story," Jet Li's "Once Upon a Time in China" flicks, Jackie Chan's "Twin Dragons" and 37 more movies as a director.
This is a movie with a sense of humor. It begins with the drunken one-night stand, immediately followed by a scene labeled "nine months later..."
This is a movie with a sense of grace and moderation, despite having action sequences that could make American imitators like McG ("Charlie's Angels") and the Wachowski Brothers ("The Matrix") cry. It doesn't overplay its best stunts in slow-mo from 16 different angles like a Hollywood action flick would. When Tsi and Bai have an incredible cat-and-mouse shootout that includes chasing each other across apartment building balconies while hanging from rappelling wires, the scene zips by in real time. It's the coolest sequence in the movie and if you blink, you'll miss it.
This is a movie with a highly refined sense of the absurd, too. But by the time the beautiful, pregnant lesbian cop is giving birth while returning fire during the climactic shootout, your mind is ready to embrace such a stretch of the imagination as an almost natural upping of the ante. This is just a flick that grins, winks and pushes the envelope of the genre wherever it can find to push.
As for the plot, I'm guessing that watching "Time and Tide" a second or third time would clear up most of the narrative points that fly by too fast to follow while you're being blown over the back of your seat by the mind-bending action. I'll tell you this much: I intend to find out. I can't wait to see it again.