Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Time and Tide

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Too much never seems to be enough in Time and Tide.Young, pretty-boy bartender Tyler Yim (Nicholas Tse) meets undercover narcotics cop (and lipstick lesbian) Ah Jo (Cathy Chui) with a bet: If she’ll down every drink on his bar, he’ll drink every bar on the street dry. She does and he tries, priming Time and Tide’s marvelously wretched excess where incredibly numerous shots of alcohol are quickly left behind for incredibly numerous shots of lead.

The couple wake up together, Jo blowing her cover and her cool. She crashes out of Tyler’s life as rudely as she crashed into it, ransacking his place for drugs and knocking him around, unknowing that he’s just knocked her up. Months later, he bumps into her on the street. She’s obviously pregnant, but still wants to keep him and their delirious heterosexuality behind her. Tyler, however, wants to do the right thing. He takes a job as a bodyguard with an unlicensed security agency in order to slip child-support cash under her door whether she wants it or not. And dreams of a better tomorrow in sunny South America ... where we find Jack (Wu Bai) in a subtle verbal face-off with a young, dreadlocked Asian who’s already demonstrated his coolly casual, yet lethal, ruthlessness. Both men are operatives for South American capo Pablo Santosa. But where Dreadlocks is a desperado, Jack is a professional with Mission:Impossible “skills” who only wants to give up the dangerous game and settle down with his pregnant wife.

The plot gets thicker than Chinese gravy — and less clear. This much I’m sure of, more or less: Returning to Hong Kong, Jack meets Tyler while the men come from opposite sides to protect Jack’s father-in-law from a gang hit. The two become ad hoc buddies as they fight their way through incredible action scenes protecting Jack’s wife and their soon-to-be-born child, hunting and hunted by Dreadlocks and a slew of dudes bearing deadly arms.

Writer-director Tsui Hark’s action set pieces are explosively gymnastic — cars, the camera and humans make leaps that at times defy the imagination — and he straps us in for a wild ride through a hail of bullets and the fiery heat of blasting bombs. But for all his visual innovation, his plot still cops the all-but-patented Hong Kong Gun Fu classic recipe from director John Woo (Mission:Impossible II and two Hark-produced A Better Tomorrow movies): A damsel in distress, two heroes on either side of the law and a mob-boss villain, guns by the trunkful and bullets by the bucketful.

Hark skimps on the quality of the human ingredients and tries to make it up with huge quantities of most of the rest of them. He ends up with a collection of action gems trapped in the holey web of his McWoo plot. Your mission if you choose to accept it? Leave the picky, left side of your brain at the door and let the dazzling destruction of Time and Tide wash over you.

Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.

E-mail James Keith La Croix at letters@metrotimes.com.

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