On the Run
In 1990, Alfred Cheung Kin-ting directed Her Fatal Ways, a fish-out-of-water comedy which follows a stern mainland policewoman's hilarious antics as she attempts to catch a pair of drug dealers in then-British-ruled Hong Kong.
Making light of the conflict between the mainland and Hong Kong - just a year after the Tiananmen crackdown on June 4, 1989 - the satire sees Cheung brimming with optimism about the post-1997 future.
This buoyancy contrasts sharply with a film Cheung directed in 1988: On the Run is the grimmest work in his 30-year acting-writing-directing career. The cops-and-assassin drama is relentless in channelling the anxiety and cynicism which permeated Hong Kong society as everyone scrambled desperately for a way out before the communist takeover.
In On the Run, mainland assassin Pai Chiu (played by Pat Ha Man-chik), whose graceful appearance belies a deadly will in accomplishing her mission, arrives in Hong Kong.
The other half of the film's odd couple is police detective Heung Ming (Yuen Biao), who is trying to move to the US with his wife Lo Huan (Idy Chan Yuk-lin), a drug squad inspector - and the hitwoman's target.
The reason for the hit? Lo knows of the criminal dealings of Pai's lover Lui (Charlie Chin Chang-lin), a police superintendent who is Heung's supervisor. After Pai completes her mission she becomes a target herself and her only hope is Heung, who is hell-bent on discovering the truth behind his wife's murder.
On the Run is Cheung's rare foray away from comedy territory, and it's one of the best thrillers to emerge from Hong Kong in the 1980s, at once a remarkable take on noir and a reminder of those uncertain times.
On the Run will be screened on June 14, 8pm, at Broadway Cinematheque and June 25, 8pm, at Palace IFC