First-time director Ricky Ko leads a talented cast in a so-so comedy action drama mishmash.
“It’s just awful to be old and broke.”
Recently, I reviewed the 2016 Korean drama film The Bacchus Lady, which dealt with the life of an elderly prostitute who looks after an immigrant boy but also, for some scenes, acts as a euthanasia service for her elderly friends. I pondered how well this final story would work as an entire film, and it seems like someone heard my thoughts because five years later, Ricky Ko released sort of this premise with his 2021 film Time.
Patrick Tse stars as Chau, an elderly hitman who’s been running a noodle restaurant as business has slowed down considerably over the years. He accepts an offer to end the life of some friends whose age is starting to cause them far more issues than they’d like to deal with, and he teams up once more with his former getaway driver Chung (Suet Lam) and partner in crime Fung (Bo-Bo Fung). One call he gets is from Tze Ying (Chung Suet-Ying), a young woman who wants Chau to teach him the art of the blade.
Again, this is all sort of what happens because for some reason Time’s structure is all over the place. There’s a lot that happens in the film, and all of it takes the form of individual characters going through their own stories without much or any interactions with anybody else. Chung’s growing fondness for a prostitute, and Fung’s troubled family life are good, but aren’t given much time to breathe as the movie knows it needs to focus back on its main two characters every so often. They’re not bad by any stretch, but I didn’t really come to this to watch Suet Lam get laid over and over again.
The film’s central story – that of loners Chau and Ying getting to know one another while dealing with their own shit – might not be focused on as much, but it’s easily the most touching. Patrick/Yin Tse’s got decades of acting skills under his belt and he nails the stoic, secretly-affectionate assassin character and never phones it in throughout. The scenes where he mournfully but mercifully kills his peers are really sweet and I do wish there had been more of it. That said, his chemistry with Ying is worth the price of admission alone.
Time is something of a mixed bag, which does make sense considering it is Ricky Ko’s directorial debut. He’s got some good, disparate ideas, but isn’t sure how to combine them effectively. Similarly, he has a talented cast but while experienced players like Lam and Fung can get to work without much prompting, relative newcomers like Chung Suet-Ying need that extra guiding hand during more emotional scenes. Combined with a somewhat confused tone, featuring less-than-stellar stylised kills in its Kill Bill-esque opening and a tonne of unnecessary comedy (this would have been better served as a serious drama, honestly), and you have a film that’s got some great scenes which happen to also be slow to start and all over the place. Like The Bacchus Lady before it Time didn’t quite deliver on the premise I’ve been wanting to see, but unlike the main characters of those two films, I have lots of time to wait for it.
Verdict: Never hitting the comedic, dramatic or storytelling highs it wants, Time is still worth checking out, if only to see Yin Tse wear a silly pink hanging neck iPhone holder.
Overall entertainment: 6/10
Violence: A really low 3/10
Sex: Suet Lam’s boner pill-induced heart attack/10
Comedic action: A comically lame 1/10
Cute scenes: Tse popping bubbles and sharing crisps/10
Best nickname: Guardian Angel of the Elders
Also known as: 殺出個黃昏
Director: Ricky Ko
Writers: Ching-Yi Ho, Ka-Tung Lam
Patrick Tse – Chau
Bo-Bo Fung – Mrs. Fung
Suet Lam – Chung
Suet-Ying Chung – Tze Ying
J.J. Jia – Fung’s daughter-in-law