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Review On the Run a.k.a. Mong ming yuen yeung (1988): Average crime thriller!

genre: action, crime, thriller

On the Run is a title that overall gets a lot of praise. But now after having watched it for the first time I believe I need to be the bearer of bad news.

As a film noir / thriller On the Run certainly is harsh and gritty. However, often it seems like this is done for shock value instead of dramatic purposes. Only in a couple of scenes, the drama was on point. The thriller elements are negligible as they are incredibly predictable. Yuen Biao's character, who is supposed to be a cop, isn't particularly bright. He is morally right, but doesn't seem to be smart enough to figure out how to come on top. If it weren't for Miss Pai played by Patricia Ha he would have been dead the first time he encountered trouble. Patricia Ha certainly is a revelation as the cold-blooded killer. She steals the show every scene she is in and is one of the main reasons why On the Run deserves at least a one time watch. Yuen Biao also demonstrates his finest role put on the screen. And as much as appreciated his acting, that is not the reason why I watch his films.

Perhaps it could have been had the story been more logical and sensible. However, in the universe that writer / director Alfred Cheung has created, the ultra corrupt cops are extremely powerful and ├╝ber sentient. They don't seem to be abided by any rules or hierarchy. And if they had shown examples of how they managed to fool their peers or superiors, then perhaps I could have bought into this fantasy. But in this world, there are very few people who asked the right questions. The ending also is very unsatisfying and pointless. And I am not referring to the finale. It's the two sentences the film ends with. As if they decided at the last moment to have a bitter-sweet ending. I am not into fatalistic stories. Perhaps that has to do with my mentality and perspective on life. I can be very cynical, but at the core I am optimistic. So when you come with a story like this, you really have to sell it to me. And in that regard On the Run fails. It's not dark or substantial enough to make you think. It's pretty much an average take and not even offering the usual benefits.

As I said earlier, Yuen Biao, probably gives his best performance ever. While I can appreciate that, I don't watch him for his acting. I watch him for his stunt work and martial arts skills. Since he basically is reduced to a damsel in distress who on occasion fights back. There is not much that he offers on the action front. The end fight might be cathartic and brutal, but it certainly wasn't enjoyable. Actually, most of the action in this film was short and unsatisfying. The focus clearly was on the story and the drama. For me, this was too lacking. It's not that I need an intelligent or substantial story. But I do need something to chew on. And in this regard, On the Run doesn't offer anything. The grittiness atmosphere simply isn't enough.

Overall, the viewing experience was very disappointing. After all the praise, I had hoped to get the same enjoyment as the majority did, and this wasn't the case. Because I think I see right through the BS that is presented. Other Hong Kong filmmakers have also tried to make it seem like there is a lot going on while not offering anything of substance. Shame on them! 

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