Based on real crimes committed by a notorious serial killer in the 1990s (pulling off several high-risk, high-reward heists, meticulously planned out and executed over nearly a decade), “Caught in Time” is a gripping, all-action crime thriller starring Asian superstar, Daniel Wu.
“Caught in Time” is out today, 7th February 2022, on digital platforms courtesy of Signature Entertainment!
Wang Qianyuan stars as veteran detective “Zhong Cheng”. The award-winning Chinese film and television actor has appeared in movies such as “The Emperor and the Assassin”, “Brotherhood of Blades”, “The Crossing”, “Shadow”, and the box office smash “The Eight Hundred”.
Asian-American film star, Daniel Wu stars as the intelligent, ruthless thief “Zhang Sun”. Wu was born and raised in California, and studied wushu from the age of 11.
His breakthrough role came in the Benny Chan-directed “Gen-X Cops“. He appeared in Teddy Chen‘s action thriller “Purple Storm”, and the action-packed “2000 A.D.” He received acclaim for his performance in “One Night in Mongkok” and as the villain in Jackie Chan‘s “New Police Story“.
Other notable film appearances include “House of Fury”, “Divergence”, “Drink-Drank-Drunk”, “The Banquet“, “Tai Chi 0”, and “Tomb Raider”. In 2015 Wu took the lead role in the martial arts action television series “Into the Badlands“.
Chinese actress Jessie Li / Chun Xia stars as “Wen Juan”, a disturbed young girl who becomes involved with Zhang Sun. Hong Kong actress Michelle Wai plays rookie cop, “Chen Qian”.
Set in southern China in the 1990s, the film follows detective Zhong Cheng as he tracks the “Eagle Gang”, a sophisticated, well-trained, and ruthless group of robbers led by gangster Zhang Sun, codename “Falcon”.
Over several years the gang members commit a series of horrendous crimes, with the police constantly being taunted by Zhang Sun.
A deadly cat-and-mouse game ensues as Zhong Cheng works to find the gang and stop them once and for all.
The movie opens with an impressive “one shot” sequence following a robbery. It’s not long before we see the gang in full action and there is little doubt left in the viewer’s mind that they are a ruthless, efficient and deadly outfit.
With barely a second to catch your breath, the next heist demonstrates that not only are they dangerous, but they are smart too. Zhang Sun finds a unique solution to crack four bank vaults at once, adding intelligence to his psychosis.
A couple of intense gun battles in the street evoke memories of Michael Mann’s classic “Heat”.
The music score and cinematography almost feel like director Christopher Nolan (who openly admits “Heat” influenced his opening bank raid in “The Dark Knight”) orchestrated the scene. The second battle is particularly intense and explosive, with tragic consequences.
After a breathless first half of the movie, the pace slows a little. The game of cat and mouse between the cops and robbers stretches out as Zhong Cheng tries to second guess Zheng Sun’s next move.
It leads to a bruising finale set in a bathhouse as the two men finally go toe-to-toe.
Chinese filmmakers and audiences love a good cops and robbers thriller. Over the years they have delivered classics such as “Crime Story”, “Election” and the sublime “Infernal Affairs”.
“Caught in Time” mostly eschews any fancy fights or more flamboyant Hong Kong stunts in favour of a more gritty style of action.
It is filmed and edited extremely well. Even with the inevitable “shaky-cam” present, all the action is clearly presented, stylishly shot yet palpably tense.
There are also plenty of stunts performed in a way that no other film industry quite captures the same, with every hit and fall looking genuinely full contact.
The final showdown leaves no hiding place for padding for the performers. This is some feat as this is no sophisticatedly choreographed martial arts battle, but a brutal, bare-chested, beat down in the name of realism.
In terms of plot and character, both seem a little under-developed, but Wang Qianyuan and Daniel Wu still deliver fine acting performances, with the latter being particularly intense when called for.
Whereas films like “Raging Fire”, or a few of Johnny To’s epics, can feel a little long, “Caught in Time” moves along briskly, so there is barely a dull second in its 95-minute running time.
The cinematography and music score are also out of the top drawer, giving this movie a real blockbuster gloss. The ending comes across a little like a piece of Chinese propaganda for law and order, but the fact that this story is loosely based on real events probably negates that slightly for once.
Where martial arts fans will be left wanting, fans of Hong Kong crime thrillers should be entertained by this breathless, fast-paced addition to the genre.
- “Tell me a joke. If it’s funny, I’ll spare your life” – Zhang Sun
- “I guarantee I will solve this case for you. Just give us police a little time” – Zhong Cheng
- “I know. We’re not bulletproof” – Chen Qian
- The film is based on a real string of robberies and murders committed by Zhang Jun, who was dubbed “China’s number one outlaw” when he was active in the 1990s. Zhang Jun killed or injured around 50 people before being apprehended in September 2000 and executed the next year.
- Reportedly, Wang Qianyuan and Daniel Wu nearly injured themselves trying to make the action as realistic as possible.
- In preparation for the shirtless fight scene at the end of the film, Wang Qianyuan and Daniel Wu spent 40 days on a diet and exercise regimen to tone their muscles.
- The production used a total of 48 guns, 6,243 blank cartridges, and 4,312 explosive cartridges.