Running Out of Time (1999)


Running Out of Time (1999)
Am zin (original title)

Dying Wah has nothing to be afraid of anymore when he realizes that he has only 4 weeks to live, and he's determined to get revenge for his father. Later, when Wah successfully gets away in a robbery, detective San makes up his mind and chases after Wah and arrests him. But, we can only have one winner in a game, who's gonna win?
Hong Kong
IMDb   7.4 /10
TheMovieDb    7.3 /10
FilmAffinity   5.3 /10
Release Date1999-09-22
Runtime1h 33min
GenreAction, Crime, Drama
Content RatingNot Rated (Not Rated)
AwardsAwards4 wins & 9 nominations
CompanyChina Star Entertainment, Win's Entertainment Ltd., Milky Way Image Company
CountryHong Kong
LanguageCantonese, English
Cheungas Cheung
Inspector Ho Sheung-Sangas Inspector Ho Sheung-Sang
Leung Yuen Ting - Girl on Mini Busas Leung Yuen Ting - Girl on Mini Bus
Baldyas Baldy
Chief Inspector Wong Kai-fatas Chief Inspector Wong Kai-fat
Suet, Baldy's Henchmanas Suet, Baldy's Henchman
Head of Interpolas Head of Interpol
Cop at bankas Cop at bank
Negotiator Huias Negotiator Hui
Diamond Dealeras Diamond Dealer
Wai Leung Hung
Wai Leung Hung
Building Caretakeras Building Caretaker
Elevator Copas Elevator Cop
Bank Robberas Bank Robber
SPU Leaderas SPU Leader
South Kei Lee
South Kei Lee
Street Thugas Street Thug
Yan Tin So
Yan Tin So
Office Workeras Office Worker
Security Guardas Security Guard
Yui Sang Wong
Yui Sang Wong
Operation Team Memberas Operation Team Member

Running Out of Time (1999 film)

Running Out of Time (Chinese: 暗戰; literal title: Hidden War) is a 1999 Hong Kong action thriller film produced and directed by Johnnie To and starring Andy Lau as a cancer-ridden criminal who challenges a police negotiator, played by Lau Ching-wan, to a 72-hour battle of wits and courage. Andy Lau won his first Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor in 2000 for his performance in the film. The film was followed by a sequel, Running Out of Time 2, which was released in 2001.


Cheung Wah (Andy Lau) is diagnosed as suffering from late-stage cancer and given four weeks to live by his doctor. He told his doctor to prescribe him with painkillers to tide him over the final weeks of his life. As Chueng eats at a diner, Inspector Ho Sheung-sang (Lau Ching-wan), a police negotiator, has been called to the scene of a bank robbery standoff that's being bungled by his inept boss, Wong Kai-fat (Benz Hui). After listening repeatedly to the taped recordings of the earlier negotiation between Wong and the robbers, Ho assessed that the robbers are professionals and goes in to negotiate with the robbers. After goading the robbers to release the injured hostages first, a man amongst the hostages stands up and shoots the robbers dead. The man flashes his police identification card at Ho and claims to be an off-duty police officer. However, Ho recognizes the man's sniffing as similar to that of the robber's sniffing in the taped recording of the earlier negotiations and realized that the man is the mastermind of the robbery. Just as the man attempts to shoot and silence Ho, the latter convinces the man that it is impossible to shoot him and get away with it as his fingerprints would be all over the murder weapon. As Ho leaves the crime scene to grab some breakfast, a shot rings out and Ho tells Wong that the robbery mastermind has committed suicide.

Cheung takes an interest in Ho, who he discovers was a former member of the Special Duties Unit. Cheung then stages his own robbery of a finance company to get in contact with Ho. He scares away the personnel of the finance company and takes the manager hostage using a gun. He gets the manager of the finance company to open up the office safe before tying him up. Cheung then uses the air ventilation ducts of the finance company to access a security company a few doors away. There, he plants a secret surveillance camera in the air ventilation duct of the security company. Cheung is then confronted by a police negotiator Hui and Wong. He told Hui that he does not like his voice and demands that the police send another negotiator to talk to him. When Ho finally appears and confronts Cheung, the latter proposes that they play a three-day long game. Cheung then shoots the finance company manager and Ho and the police give chase until Cheung stalls them enough to make an escape with a bomb, which turns out to be fake. In addition it is revealed the finance manager is still alive and was only shot with messy red looking paint.

Cheung makes his escape by posing as a cop. Ho meets with Cheung after posing as a taxi driver. Amazed at Ho's ploy, he'll admit defeat at the game if Ho can take him to the police station before three days are over. Cheung then pulls a gun a starts shooting out the window to test Ho's reaction. When Ho slams the brakes, Cheung flees and jumps aboard to mini-bus. When stopped at a police road block, Cheung avoids them. Having seen his gun, she cooperates. Leaving the road block, he gets off.

Meanwhile, a man known only as Baldy (Waise Lee) is having a diamond that he had stolen appraised by the old man who was taking pictures of Ho earlier. The two Americans who stole the diamond for him ask for more money. Baldy pulls out his gun and points it at the old man, who confirms its authenticity. Baldy then kills the two Americans and takes the diamond. Ho returns to the finance company for further questioning, and sees Baldy entering the office space next door. He tries to get in, but it stopped by one of Baldy's men.

As Cheung watches a video feed of the vault at Baldy's office, he puts a screw inside a box. As he takes a drink, he coughs out blood, meaning his condition is worsening with internal bleeding. Ho tries to reason why Cheung held up the finance company and not the jewelry or antique stores in the building and why Cheung chose him for his game. As he leaves for the day, Ho receives a Cheung's package. He meets up with his friend, the Head of Interpol, who's given him information on Baldy, who's wanted for possession of explosives, and one Peter Cheung, the old man who took pictures of him and appraised the diamond. Peter Cheung was Baldy's boss until Baldy kicked him out.

More focused on the case, he skips having dinner with her to break into Baldy's office. When trying to get in, he's turned away by security, who's told by Wong that he's not on the case. Ho sneaks in anyway as Cheung watches him on video feeds. Using a packet of dairy creamer he took from security, Ho enters the finance company and finds the grate that Cheung's screw comes from. Going through the vents, he finds men that Baldy had to keep an eye on the diamond and Cheung's video equipment, which Cheung uses to give away Ho's entrance. Ho tries to escape, but Cheung calls him and leads him to an emergency door that turns out to be a dead end. Ho tries to pick the lock on the emergency door, which is opened by the guy who he encountered earlier when he tried to get into the office.

Knowing that Baldy will come down to get the diamond out of there, Cheung reveals a car identical to Baldy's. One of Baldy’s henchmen sees the car, assuming that Baldy is in it. As the henchmen approaches towards the car, Cheung takes the diamond, posing as Baldy with the bald cap and knocks the henchmen out. Ho and Baldy's men give chase as Cheung flees away from them. As both Ho and Cheung get fired on by Baldy's men, the two are amazed at each other's resilience. They work together to get out of the predicament, but Ho realizes that now he's the one with a gun and Cheung is the one driving. Cheung reiterates that if Ho can get him to the police station, he wins. However, Cheung drives the car into a wall. After the collision, both men try their hardest to get the diamond as they both feel wobbly after the crash. Ho reaches towards the diamond but collapses, which lead to Cheung walking away with it. However, Cheung drops his painkilling pills while trying to get the diamond.

After Ho gets checked up, Wong, who thinks the pills are Ho's, tries to talk to him. Ho's Interpol friend comes and brings him more information on Peter Cheung, who died a year ago, and a photo of Cheung, his son. Cheung, who has been masquerading as his father, sends Baldy proof that he has the diamond and will give it back for $20 million HK. Ho meets with Cheung at the diner, asking why he's still playing with him even though he's got the diamond and has avenged his father. Ho gives him a minute to give him a good reason not to arrest him now. Cheung wants to have Ho arrest Baldy, but realizes that Ho isn't doing this for fame or a promotion. Cheung then taunts Ho, saying that he's beating Ho in their little game. Ho lets him leave so they can finish their game.

Cheung takes a bus, where he meets the woman from earlier again. The bus is pulled over by the police, and the woman invites Cheung over like before. She takes him to a restaurant, but he leaves when he starts coughing up blood.

Cheung has set the place to make the exchange for the diamond at a bowling alley, which is being staked out by Ho, Wong and the police. Ho bumps into the same henchman he's been running into, who still doesn't recognize him. Cheung has Ho make the exchange for him, but Baldy has Cheung, who's disguised as a woman, get the money. Ho tries to get Wong to check in on the money exchange, but Wong doesn't get the message. Cheung, who's taken out Baldy's man and the cop while getting the money, takes off his disguise and makes the exchange himself, telling Ho that the "woman" is conning him. Baldy takes Cheung's bag, which holds a bowling ball, and throws it on the floor in rage, revealing diamonds inside. The police move in and arrest Baldy for stealing the diamonds from the finance company next door.

Cheung leaves the scene with the diamond and the money. Ho catches up with Cheung, finally arrests him and prepares to take him to the police station. Cheung reveals another "bomb" and pulls out another detonator like the one before. Ho calls him on his bluff and presses the detonator, which starts a timer on the bomb. Cheung, who knows he's going to die soon, wishes that he not die in a jail cell, so Ho stops and gets out of the car, seeing as Cheung is dying in the car. The timer reaches zero, which starts up the car and Cheung escapes again. When Wong berates Ho for letting Cheung get away again, Ho simply ignores him and goes to grab something to eat. Cheung, playing dead, drives away, smiling.

Ho reads in the newspaper that someone using his name donated HK$20 million to a children's cancer foundation. He hops on a bus and meets the woman Cheung kept running into wearing the diamond. Ho admires the diamond, though she brushes it off as something cheap. He asks who gave it to her, and she says she hasn't seen him in a while. Ho tells her to hold on to it.


  • Andy Lau as Cheung Wah
  • Lau Ching-wan as Inspector Ho Sheung-sang
  • Yoyo Mung as Leung Yuen-ting (Girl on the Mini Bus)
  • Waise Lee as Baldy
  • Benz Hui as Chief Inspector Wong Kai-fat
  • Lam Suet as Baldy's Henchman
  • Ruby Wong as Head of the Interpol
  • Ai Wai as Cop at bank
  • Hung Wai-leung as Mr. Lee
  • Lam Wai-kin as Mr. Hui - Negotiator
  • Law Ching-ting as Baldy's thug
  • Lee Sau-kei as Cheung's doctor
  • So Yan-tin as Ho's subordinate
  • Robert Sparks as an American Diamond Dealer
  • Wong Wan-woo as Office building security guard
  • Yau Man-shing as Bank Robber
  • Yee Tin-hung as Bank robber

Awards and nominations

Awards and nominations
19th Hong Kong Film AwardsBest FilmRunning Out of TimeNominated
Best DirectorJohnnie ToNominated
Best ActorAndy LauWon
Best Supporting ActorBenz HuiNominated
Best ScreenplayYau Nai-hoi, Laurent Coutiaud, Julien CarbonNominated
Best Film EditingAndy ChanNominated
6th Hong Kong Film Critics Society AwardsFilm of MeritRunning Out of TimeWon
5th Golden Bauhinia AwardsBest FilmRunning Out of Time'Nominated
Best DirectorJohnnie ToNominated
Best ActorAndy LauNominated
Best ScreenplayYau Nai-hoi, Laurent Coutiaud, Julien CarbonNominated
Top 10 Chinese-language filmRunning Out of TimeWon

External links

  • Running Out of Time at IMDb