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When his wife, also working for the the police, but in a different department, is being brutally murdered, a police officer begins to investigate the case on his own. Soon he has the hitwoman, who did it arrested, but must find out that things are not as easy as he thought. He has knocked at the wrong door and it turns out that the woman he has hold of may be his only ally. Written by
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.
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