Time and Tide Review
From popular Hong Kong Movie Director Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China 2) Time and Tide is a strangely compelling film that will hold your interest due to the many outrageous action sequences but may also spark some interest due to its often-quirky drama. Focusing its story on two male protagonists Time and Tide introduces us first to Tyler (Nicholas Tse), a young man who aspires to make his fortune and leave Hong Kong for the sunny paradise of South America. After a drunken one-night stand he soon finds himself as a father to be and despite the mothers (the sublime Cathy Tsui) lack of interest he sets about finding his fortune (with the new found significance of supporting his pending child) by becoming a bodyguard. Our second male protagonist, Jack (Wu Bai), a friend of Tyler's who is also supporting an expecting mother (Candy Lo) has his own problems in the form of a band of mercenaries intent on taking their revenge (Jack used to be a part of their team but left and made fools of them in the process). Tyler is unaware of Jacks problems but soon gets caught up in the middle of a potentially explosive situation when his work as a bodyguard leads to direct contact with Jack and the mercenaries, all of which eventually leads into an action packed 45-minute finale!
To be honest the story (co-written by Tsui Hark and Koan Hui) can sometimes be slightly confusing but everything slots into place after a second visit. In between the slightly convoluted plot, genuinely solid performances from the leads, a touching love story between Nicholas Tse and Cathy Tsui, and some amusing comic moments (from both the male and female leads) the single most important storytelling method comes in the form of the many superb action sequences. From a car racing around in reverse to the wire assisted brawls and gun toting action (at first the use of wires looks a little strange but it soon becomes part of the 'feel') Tsui Hark never lets you rest for a moment as he attempts to reinvent the wheel time and time again through the films (slightly long) 113-minute running time. Visually stunning both in the composition of shots, the bold use of colour, and the unique (although there is a touch of The Matrix in there) use of computer graphics (taking you inside a Guns chamber at one point) Time and Tide mixes all of the above with a fantastic sound mix to create what becomes a full assault on the senses. In all the combination of an interesting story, imaginative action sequences with some stunning cinematography and the daring camera work (the camera literally jumps out of a window following Jack as he abseils down a building) Time and Tide is a thoroughly entertaining watch that holds up to repeated viewings particularly well.
Maintaining the films original 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio and presented with Anamorphic Enhancement this DVD release is another decent effort from Columbia Tristar that only falls down in the latter stages of the film. As you would expect for a film released just last year the print is in very good condition with only the occasional speck making its way onto your screens, minimal amounts of grain are present but never overly distracting while detail is on the whole very high. Colour is extremely well rendered but unfortunately the black levels, while generally very good do present a problem in the final third of the movie where I did notice several of the darker scenes (particularly in the Apartment battle) demonstrating a lower contrast level resulting in a fluctuation in quality for those scenes.
Catering for a large audience Columbia Tristar have provided both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mixes of the Original Chinese Language (actually Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish and English!) and the English Dub along with both English and French subtitles. For review purposes I chose, as I always do, the original language track (DD5.1 mix) and I am happy to report that this is one of the most dynamic tracks I have heard on my (relatively new) Dolby Digital system. Making full use of the surround speakers from the very start with the interesting music and effects from the opening titles right through to general background noise heard throughout the film this track really opens up in the myriad of action scenes where gunfire can be heard from every corner of the room creating an astonishingly tense atmosphere. Another great feature is the use of the subwoofer, for most of the running time the effects are fairly subtle, but in three separate sections (opening titles, and Nicholas Tse's use of a Sledgehammer and a Fire Extinguisher) it really opens up to consume the room with some wonderful bass.
I briefly sampled the English DD5.1 track and can report that the sound mix is (from my brief tests) exactly the same as its Chinese equivalent apart from the dubbed dialogue which is, well, merely adequate. In the few scenes I sampled I heard the usual embellishment of curse words as well a slightly weird take on some of the more quirky dialogue (when the two female leads meet in the supermarket would be a good example of this!). Both Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks were as one would expect, of a high quality but just lacking in comparison to the wonderful 5.1 alternatives - they are however the best choice for those watching via a standard stereo set-up. Both sets of subtitles are well presented using an easy to read yellow font with no spelling or grammatical errors present (at least on the English track).
The extra feature of interest to many will be the (possibly his first) Tsui Hark Audio Commentary. Hark's English is actually very good so he is extremely easy to follow in what proves to be quite an interesting commentary track where he provides an insight to the various directions he was attempting to take us when creating this film. On top of the general insight to his personal filmmaking style he is quite happy to point out when a scene is exaggerated, or when onlookers are caught on camera (including a huge crowd I never noticed during an early stunt involving cars) and even goes on to suggest you try out one of the stunts (involving an escalator) as it is 'quite fun and not at all dangerous'!
Other extras include selected filmographies for Tsui Hark and Nicholas Tse as well as the original Theatrical Trailer (which is particularly good, maintaining Harks trademark flare) for Time and Tide. Other Trailers available for your viewing pleasure are Once Upon a Time in China, Miracles (both of which look atrocious compared to the HKL releases) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
For what it lacks in plot development Time and Tide more than makes up for any deficiencies with the stunning action set-pieces that elevate it into the realms of 'must see' for both Hong Kong Movie buffs and action fans alike. While the picture could have been better this DVD is otherwise of a very high quality and offers both an excellent set of audio options and an interesting audio commentary from director Tsui Hark.