His career having begun with The Butterfly Murders of 1979, by the release of 2000’s Time and Tide (順流逆流) Tsui Hark had directed almost thirty films in just over two decades in addition to many more where he served in other capacities, writer, producer, supporting actor, or sometimes a combination of all three, a prolific contributor to the Hong Kong film industry who had already won major awards for 1987’s A Better Tomorrow which he produced and 1992’s Once Upon a Time in China.
His return to high powered Hong Kong action cinema after two Hollywood vehicles for Jean-Claude Van Damme, Double Team and Knock Off, the screenplay for Time and Tide was written in collaboration with Koan Hui then rewritten to accommodate his preferred leading man, the Taiwanese singer and actor Wu Bai, with further significant changes made to the production in the editing suite, the initial cut of over three hours cut down to a more commercial 116 minutes.
A complex action thriller of revenge, resentment, and betrayal, Wu Bai is Jack, husband to Ah Hui (Candy Lo), the humble son of a butcher who has married into a society family where he is looked down upon by her businessman father, publicly snubbed at his birthday celebrations at which he helps thwart an assassination attempt when the appointed protection agency fail to meet the required levels of service.
Approached by the assigned bodyguard Tyler (Nicholas Tse), Jack is asked if he would like to collaborate in a new venture running their own operation, but Jack’s former life is already catching up with him in the form of a South American gang called the Angels who are looking to expand their operation to Hong Kong, eager for Jack to rejoin them with his first target being his disliked father-in-law.
Built entirely around the action sequences, the stunt performers of Time and Tide and Hark’s eye for spectacle cannot be faulted, with quick changes, gun play, hand to hand combat, aerial work and even a gunfight undertaken abseiling down the outside of a slum tenement, but with a third of the film cut vital plot and character development takes second place to endless action.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray for the first time by Eureka with two commentaries, one by Tsui Hark and the other by Frank Djeng, Time and Tide is at times overstylised to the point of being incomprehensible, Hark apparently incapable of stepping back and saying enough until every ammunition clip has been emptied, an exhilarating experience but also one which is exhausting and frustrating.