With Tsui Hark back on the charts with Criterion’s release of his epic Once Upon A Time In China boxset, let’s take a look back at his absolutely over the top, ludicrous action character piece from 2000, Time And Tide. It’s a hard film to process as it juggles so many styles and tones over its run time.
The action is staggeringly well directed, with some absolutely insane camera movements and edits that have to be seen to be believed. The second act shootout in an apartment building has some remarkable stunts and choreography, as does the third act extended shoot-out. It’s all anchored by a shockingly young Nicholas Tse and Wu Bai (who does a majority of the heavy lifting action wise) and is more than capable. He’s a true standout and it makes you wonder why his career didn’t explode (No pun intended) after this came out.
It’s the story where the film stumbles: it starts as a character drama involving a one night stand, an unexpected pregnancy and Nicolas Tse’s character attempting to grow up and provide, before unfolding into a former mercenary taking out his old team to protect his pregnant wife. Which in turn then leads to a shoot-out mid child birth, yes you read that right. MID-BIRTH. That might not be the most over the top part of this film.
It’s all ridiculous and just serves to move the plot forward from major action beat to major action beat. It’s all style no substance which normally would turn me off but when an action film is this well directed it doesn’t distract from the lack of story as you can’t take your eyes off the screen.
It goes to the strength of Hark’s direction and Nicholas Tse’s endless likability and charm that this movie doesn’t fall apart under the non stop almost relentless nature. Shootouts, slow motion, crazy camera tricks, pregnancies, explosions and humor all get thrown into a blender and out comes Time and Tide.