Caught in Time


Caught in Time
t.l. Preso in tempo
除暴 (Chu bao)

Hong Kong/Mainland China, 2021, 94’, Mandarin and Cantonese
Directed by: Lau Ho-leung
Screenplay: Lau Ho-leung, Leo Hong
Photography (color): Pakie Chan
Editing: J.Him Lee, James Cheung, Lau Ho-leung, Yao Shuo
Art Direction: Lee Kin-wai, Chou Tak-fu
Music: Lam Kwan-fai, Julian Chan, Intermusic Production
Producer: Han Sanping
Cast: Wang Qianyuan (Zhong Cheng), Daniel Wu (Falcon Zhang), Jessie Li (Yang Wenjuan), Michelle Wai (Chen Qian), Nina Paw (Falcon’s mother)

Date of First Release in Territory: June 24th, 2021 (Hong Kong)

The action’s quick to start in Caught in Time, the second feature from Hong Kong director Lau Ho-leung. When mainland police captain Zhong Cheng (Wang Qianyuan) is transferred to the city of Changpu in 1990, he immediately crosses paths with thief Falcon Zhang (Daniel Wu) in the midst of a crime. Falcon and his heavily armed henchmen are sticking up a friendship store, and Zhong rushes in to stop them – only to be taken hostage, then dumped from a moving car and promptly arrested. Once his new colleagues realise their error and free him, Zhong swears he’ll put Falcon’s gang out of business.
But that’s not going to be easy. The police soon notice that Falcon and his mates are meticulous and always one step ahead of the law. That’s especially clear when it turns out the gang had sat calmly in a noodle joint after one heist just to watch the cops arrive. After the investigators get close and the gang loses one of its members, the thieves set their sights on other cities and Zhong stays hard in pursuit.
Set in the early 1990s before the widespread use of surveillance cameras, and based on the real-life case of robber and murderer Zhang Jun, Caught in Time lets loose a streak of elaborate daylight robbery scenes with brazen, swaggering thieves. The police are meanwhile relentless on the trail, sometimes reaching comical levels of righteousness – one restaurant shot gives Zhong a halo – and at other points soldiering on in the face of immense danger. Lau Ho-leung, who has written for thrillers by Johnnie To and Teddy Chen, stages strong action set pieces with tricky set ups, high tension and skilful long takes to draw in viewers, and Wang Qianyuan makes for an entertaining figure as the ever-present face of the police. Daniel Wu, sporting dowdy clothes and horrendous hairdos, is meanwhile charismatic in an intriguing and ruthless role – one moment Falcon is a devoted husband and son, and at another he casually hands a grenade to a kid. When cop and criminal finally face off in a bathhouse, both actors deliver physically gruelling performances as they do battle clad only in tightly secured towels. Accomplished supporting players meanwhile include Hong Kong actresses Nina Paw and Michelle Wai, as well as Hong Kong cinema regular Jessie Li, playing Falcon’s loyal wife.
Released in the mainland at the end of 2020 but only reaching Hong Kong screens in summer last year, Caught in Time is an exemplar of what Hong Kong filmmakers can achieve when they head into the mainland to craft high-budget co-productions. While the setting is across the border, those who appreciate Hong Kong cinema cues can be tickled by how Lau and his collaborators weave those in. Aside from drawing on Hong Kong’s action-cinema skill set, the film also sees policeman and thief alike taking inspiration from the city’s movies. And while some filmmaking moves are without doubt geared towards meeting mainland censorship, which aims at stamping out grey areas in crime pictures, other points in the film still manage to draw on Hong Kong traditions of big-screen anti-heroes and make lawbreakers sometimes seem more human than the single-minded head cop in pursuit. The efforts to push limits in mainland crime pictures ultimately paid off for Lau and his team: moviegoers gave Caught in Time a strong reception as soon as it hit cinemas, and a follow-up film was quickly promised.

Lau Ho-leung

Lau Ho-leung graduated with a degree in film and TV from Hong Kong Baptist University and joined the Hong Kong film industry as a scriptwriter. In a career spanning more than two decades, Lau has written for films including Runaway (2001), Once a Gangster (2010), Kung Fu Jungle (2014) and Three (2016), and he earned a Hong Kong Film Awards Best Screenplay nomination for Painted Skin (2008). Lau made his debut as writer-director with Two Thumbs Up (2014).



2014 – Two Thumbs Up
2021 – Caught in Time

Tim Youngs
Film director: LAU Ho-leung
Year: 2021
Running time: 94'
Country: China & Hong Kong
29/04 - 9:45 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
29-04-2022 21:45 29-04-2022 23:19Europe/Rome Caught in Time Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine
ONLINE only in Italy until the end of the Festival