9 August 2005 | genrebusters
Thoughtful and Great action - one of Hark's best
Watching Time and Tide is akin to being in a taxicab with a driver, who knows what his final destination is but has no idea how to get there, drives around really fast and somehow makes it to the end--this is not to be said as an insult, but a testament to his skill. Hark works with energy and a sense of recklessness and brevity. He only shows what needs to be shown for the smallest amount of time needed to register with the viewer so that even the dramatic scenes have a kinetic energy.
I would try to give a quick synopsis of the narrative, but I lack both the PH.D in Ludicrous and the necessary drugs to do so without confusion. I have only watched the film a dozen times or so and yet there are still moments where I am puzzled as to the what's and why's of the narrative. There are double crosses, triple crosses, Hispanic speaking Chinese gangs, two pregnant woman, 2 would-be assassin/bodyguards/dead-beat dads to be, a theme of brotherhood and fatherhood and the most elaborate action set piece ever devised. While the plot may be overly convoluted, the themes are strong and add an emotional realism often lacking in action films.
The words "realism" and "Tsui Hark" are not often spoken together, but in Time and Tide he creates a realistic tapestry within to work his hard-boiled action fantasy. An emotional connection between the audience and the characters on screen is what separates the lasting impressions from the fleeting memories of a good movie. Hark gives the two male leads in Time and Tide a purpose for what they are doing; the purpose may be far-fetched, but there is a rhyme for the reason, which elevates the action to an emotional level.
The theme of brotherhood spanning two sides of the law is not an uncommon one for Hong Kong cinema. However, Hark decided to also examine the new trends of young parenthood and children born out of wedlock. This issue was at the time a sort of taboo subject in Hong Kong, especially in an action oriented genre film. But what it does here is give the characters an anchor that grounds them firmly in reality. Viewers can relate to a young father who would do anything for his future children. The worry, excitement, anticipation, and fears of the main characters come into play and really do dictate how the two male leads react to the given situations.
In Tyler's case, he wants to do the right thing and support his child and Ah Jo even if only financially. He works hard to earn extra cash and sneaks to Ah Jo's house to slide the money under her doorhe does this because she wants nothing more to do with him but he still feels responsible. What he doesn't know is that nine times out of ten her dog gets to the money before she arrives home and rips it to shreds. Tyler continues to do everything he can to be there for Ah Jo even taking a dangerous job to earn money for their future.
So Hark has established that both the main characters, although not model citizens, are decent human beings who want redemption from their pasts and strive for a brighter future for themselves, their children and loved ones. With this said though, do the ends justify the means? For all their good intentions to make things right, a lot of people end up getting hurt. However, this is a typical kind of spiritual redemption for Honk Kong action heroesredemption through blood and bullets, and heroic bloodshed.
Before the action starts rolling, Hark gives his characters an anchor with which to ground themselves in reality. The sole purpose of this is so that the audience can relate on an emotional level to the characters and their plights. But, what Hark does when the water starts boiling is firmly rip the anchor away and send the two heroes through a gauntlet of flying bullets, fists, chases and the most dangerous baby delivery ever put on screen.
Imagine this: Many large apartment buildings, dozens of stories tall, all connected with a sort of center court yard and doors and hallways intertwined like an urban maze. Now imagine our heroes being chased through this labyrinth by ruthless Triad hit men stopping at nothing to see them dead. Jack and Tyler sprint though out the complex of destruction, dodging bullets and fists, repelling down the side of the buildings, jumping from awning to awning, stopping only to trade fisticuffs with rival thugs or to pick up a much needed clip of ammunition.
Hark's heroes are not interchangeable, they do not occupy a scene only to be a human punching bag ready to be whisked away at a moments notice by a wire harness. No, Hark's heroes, although put in fantastic situations, occupy a realm of emotional realism. He gives them a sense of humor, passions, personalities and most of the time an enormous amount of skill to kick ass. It is this very fact that separates a Tsui Hark film from the multitude of other well-directed action films. Time and Tide occupies a unique place in the action-cinema genre: not only does it elevate the action and aesthetic value of the genre, but it also adds an emotional depth often lacking from like-minded films.
Time and Tide works on two levels, as a dramatic film and as an action film, both benefiting from each other. The action becomes more intense because the audience cares for the film's characters, and at the same time the drama is more emotional because the audience wants the characters to succeed in their redemption. Time and Tide is not only one of Tsui Hark's best films, it is also one of the best examples of the entire action genre and should not be missed by anyone.