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.
Yuen Biao plays a CID detective whose wife is brutally assassinated in a restaurant by a lone female killer (Pat Ha). It turns out she had uncovered evidence of wrong-doing by some members of the homicide squad, and so the corrupt police officers ordered the hit to keep her silent. Yuen Biao starts investigating and soon finds the murderer, except that the aforementioned bad guys are trying to silence the hired killer as well – Yuen Biao spoils their plans by saving the killer, which puts him in their crosshairs as well, and soon Yuen Biao and Pat Ha are on the run for their lives, with nowhere to turn to for help.
Alfred Cheung has directed a few decent films over the course of his career, most of them being comedies such as Her Fatal Ways, or All’s Well, Ends Well 97. But nothing else in his filmography would lead you to believe he was capable of delivering a film as polished and stylish as On the Run, a gritty and quite violent crime noir classic which he wrote and directed in 1988. The movie is truly a gem that represents not only one of the creative peaks of HK cinema in the late 80s but also a highlight in the acting career of star Yuen Biao.
Shot mostly at night, the film is awash in colored neon light, reflected in the wet asphalt of HKs urban jungle, bouncing off car windshields, and providing a warm glow through windows and doors, bathing walls and interiors in strong reds or greens. The color composition is lovely, and on more than one occasion I wished I could freeze and print out the image on the screen to hang it on a wall. Cheung uses the environment to perfection, and creates moody, dark settings simply by playing with shadow and light. The closeups are often gorgeously framed and enhanced by natural effects, such as Pat Ha’s face behind a screen of rain pouring down a car windshield, or the silhouette of Pat Ha and Yuen Biao against a background of staggered angled walls, each lighted in different colors. It all looks very stylish without ever becoming mannered – and it was shot years before WKW and Christopher Doyle came along…
The story is unrelentingly dark and tense, without ever becoming depressing or moody. And Cheung ensures that the tone of the movie, once established, is carried through in a consistent manner – no comic relief, no jarring concessions to sentiment, no self-referential irony, just honest, direct story-telling in the best film noir tradition.
Subtitles:English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean (muxed)