Posted: 10/20/2001


Time and Tide


by Del Harvey

This DVD is available for purchase at

Film Monthly Home
Wayne Case
Steve Anderson
The Rant
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
The Indies
Film Noir
Coming Soon
Now Playing
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
Interviews TV

Hong Kong director Tsui Hark has achieved cult status as a filmmaker with such explosive films as the Once Upon a Time in China series, Knock Off, Double Team, and producer and co-writer for the recent Iron Monkey. His penchant for riveting action scenes and stylized camera work have helped him to achieve recognition worldwide. With Time and Tide, he exceeds his earlier work with subtle cinema trickery and effects, but neatly underlines the story in the process.

The star of this film is a Hong Kong pop music idol, Nicholas Tse (co-star of the wretched Gen-X Cops). Tse plays Tyler, a restless young man with no worries and no future, working as a bartender to fill time. One night he makes a bet with a beautiful young woman—if he can outdrink her she will kiss him. Cut to a graphic scene of the two of them vomiting off an overpass. The next morning they wake up in bed and she, realizing this horror, runs to the bathroom to wash her disgust away. She makes such a big deal about their having had sex that you just know she’s pregnant. Not only do we find out she’s pregnant, but she is also a lesbian. After her former girlfriend comes after Tyler with a baseball bat, he decides that it’s time to earn some real money, and fast. In spite of the constant rejection, he feels responsible for the baby.

Tyler takes a job as a bodyguard for Uncle Ji (Anthony Wong Chau Sang, Gen-X Cops, Violent Cop). Uncle Ji’s bodyguard services is one of the most reputable and successful in all of Hong Kong, even though Ji is something of a scoundrel. As life’s realities pile up, Tyler daydreams of escaping to a tropical paradise. One of his early daydreams serves as an introduction to Jack (Wu Bai).

Jack is a mercenary who has grown tired of the ‘wet’ work. In a signature Tsui Hark scene we are transported to one of Tyler’s tropical locations. Instead of being the sunny beach scene, however, it’s tropical monsoon season and we’re in some dark underbelly area. Jack and his fellow mercenaries are pulling a heist. The set-ups are fantastic, as though a Frank Miller comic book has come to life. When the sequence is over, we are not sure, at first, whether or not we’ve just witnessed a dream sequence or some bit of past reality. This is not revealed until later in the film.

One of Tyler’s bodyguard jobs serves as the pivotal intersection with Jack’s character, as the bodyguard service has been hired to protect Jack’s disdainful father-in-law. Tyler and Jack meet, and find that they share the commonality of being rejected individuals and of having a pregnant wife or girlfriend.

All of this is barely the first half of the film. The action really takes off in the second half. The stunts, acrobatics, and the creativity and inventiveness all combine to create a dizzying ballet for the viewer. Especially the sequence in an apartment building, where Tyler and Jack battle Jack’s former ally mercenaries up and down, around, inside, and all over the outside, of the building. This is a breathtaking sequence as potent as any car chase scene.

Time and Tide is more than just another Hong Kong action picture, and it illustrates the major difference between such inferior tripe as Jackie Chan in The Prisoner or Gen-X Cops with films of quality and substance. A bit confusing at times, Time and Tide is still one Hell of an exciting ride. And the message it bears is surprisingly positive. Available on video with English subtitles, Time and Tide is well worth a rental.

A Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia presentation of a Film Workshop Co. Ltd. production. Producer-director Tsui Hark. Executive producer Tsui Hark. Screenplay Koan Hui, Tsui Hark. Cinematographers Ko Chiu Lam, Herman Yau. Editor Marco Mak. Music Tommy Wai. Stunt coordinator Xiong Xin Xin. In Cantonese, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly and lives in Chicago. He is a survivor of Lucasfilm, the Walt Disney Company, and the Directors Guild of America.

Got a problem? E-mail us at