Midnight Running
Hong Kong Japan 2006
Directed by Wong Chung Ning.

Mari, a japanese pickpocket (Maya Rumiko) steals a triad membership list from the Tung Hing group, whose boss insists they recover it that night, Christmas Eve, or lose their lives. Peter (Derek Tsang), the bartender at the gang's hangout speaks a little Japanese and is enlisted to help find the girl, which he does, and discovers they both share an interest in Hemingway, and drinking mohitos. They decide to blackmail the triad, and only one incompetent cop, Paul (Timmy Hung), stands in their way. And yes, for those of you keeping track of character names, those names again were Peter, Paul, and Mari. Which puts me in mind of the folksinging trio, but perhaps it was more of a nod to the Christmas timeframe of the story.

Similar to Maniacal Night, which was also written and produced by Sam Leong, in that it takes place in the space of one night, and the mood is light though the situations are sometimes serious. Japanese - Hong Kong (mis)communication also plays a part. But there is a huge difference between the two films. MANIACAL NIGHT is a love song to Hong Kong, where despite all the craziness, it doesn't seem like there is any place you would rather be. It is beautiful, it is poetic, it is rhapsody. In MIDNIGHT RUNNING, though, Hong Kong is a joke. Both the cops, led by Carl Ng, and the triads, are preening fools. Our hero clumps around in a mascot costume of a big floppy-eared dog. And our heroes dream of leaving the city, to discover their beautiful dream beach somewhere far away. In fact, Hong Kong is so lousy they are pining away for Cuba, of all places. What a difference a half-decade makes.

The male co-stars are second-generation: Timmy Hung is Sammo Hung's son; Derek Tsang is Eric Tsang's son. Where's Jaycee Chan when you need him? Of these next gen stars, I find Timmy Hung to be a pretty enjoyable presence. The rest still need a bit more work. The soundtrack to the film is heavy on the whimsy, but there is at least one musical cue lifted right out of the old TRON arcade game, employed every time a man wearing a plastic bag over his head hits another man with a pipe. I have no idea why they kept using this musical cue, but it made me laugh, anyway. In any case, MIDNIGHT RUNNING is lighthearted fluff that is a pleasant enough way to pass some time, and doesn't take itself too seriously.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on September 17, 2007.

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