Film Review: ‘Caught in Time’ (2020)

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Stars: Qianyuan Wang, Daniel Wu, Jessie Li
Director: Ho-Leung Lau
Distributor: Signature Entertainment

“You bit him?”

Based upon the crimes of Zhang Jun in early 90s China, Caught in Time presents a stylish cat and mouse thriller entailing an array of blood, guts and murder…all within a respectable running time. 

Detective Zhong Cheng (Wang Qianyuan) finds himself kidnapped and in the midst of another heist under the criminal group, Eagle Gang, led by the extraordinarily ruthless Zhang Sun (Daniel Wu). Thrown out into the middle of the road, Zhong begins a long term quest in the pursuit of bringing Eagle to justice, whilst they themselves cause endless havoc and become both more dangerous and lethal as they proceed. 

Years later, following the emergence of a new lead and new incentives for Zhong to track down and catch up to Eagle, the determined officer edges closer, yet continually finds himself one step behind Zhang and his rogues. But as an advantage is there to be had, chance favours the prepared mind, and Zhong pushes his pursuit with an unbelievable edge he eventually acquires. Can Zhong takedown Zhang?

From the opening, there is a clear intention of immersing the viewer within the action – no matter how minimal or malicious it may be. However, on the flipside of this initiative, there is an obvious lack of heist exploitation within this film. The heists and robberies which occur, a pacey in-and-out edit of the action is present, thus leaving the theft to be up to the viewer’s imagination. Though ultimately, it seems that the story of Caught in Time is the cat-and-mouse pursuit of cop and crook, not necessarily the crimes of the crook.

With a cat and a mouse journey culminating in a bathhouse showdown between Zhong and Zhang, the parallels made with Heat are solidified and cemented. Except a reminiscence transcends into something completely different. Whether intentional or not, Caught in Time succumbs to conveying itself as a parody of Heat, as cop and crook face-off equipped with the most indestructible bath towels of all-time.

As a film set in the 90s, Caught in Time faces two potentially difficult, and common, challenges: accurately replicating the 90s look and so on, and then also having the film look like a 90s film. With the latter, a film can often seem disorientating if it has a 90s story, yet looks like a 2020s production. In the instance of Caught in Time, the WILD nature of early 90s Hong Kong action can be seen here and there, though aside from that, a square/CRT TV just isn’t sufficient. 

Ultimately, Caught in Time is another excellent addition to the long list of recent exports from HK/China. Though not quite the elite level of HK/Chinese filmmaking of yesteryear or the more recent Raging Fire, this 2020 film succeeds in its stylish nuances and engaging viewer immersion.

Caught in Time is available now on digital platforms. Many thanks to Signature Entertainment for the pleasure of this film.

3 Stars


For John.

This article’s featured image: By Source, Signature Entertainment, Fair Use 

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