Running on Karma (2003)
Chinastar | One Hundred Years of Film | Milkyway Image
Cast: Andy Lau Tak Wah, Cecilia Cheung Pak Chi, Eddie Cheung Siu Fai,
Chun Wong, Karen Tong, Hon Kwok Choi, Yu Wen Zhong, Hou Lian Sheng,
He Sheng Wei, Zhang Meng
Cameo: Yuen Bun
Writer: Wai Ka Fai, Yau Nai Hou, Au Kin Yee, Yip Tin Shing Music: Cacine Wong
Stunt Coordinator: Yuen Bun Cinematographer: Cheng Siu Keung (HKSC)
Administrative Producer: Tiffany Chen Producer and Director: Johnnie To, Wai Ka Fai
Genre: Drama | Action Length: 93 minutes Rating: IIB
"Evil thoughts can set off horrible consequences."
You've gotta admire Andy Lau's dedication to his craft. First he gained 275 lbs of flab for his
role in Love on a Diet, and then he packed on 125 lbs of pure rippling muscles for Running on
Karma. Just thinking about all that eating and pumping iron is exhausting, but evidently Andy is
committed to transforming himself for the part at any cost. He's amazing!
Running on Karma turns out to be far more cerebral than expected. Lau plays Big, a
musclebound chap who strips, boxes, smokes, and competes in bodybuilding competitions;
yet he's not all that he seems. Years earlier, he was a Buddhist monk who lived in the mountains
of China. After his good friend, Jade, was murdered by mangy nomadic criminal Sun Ko, he
discovered that he could "see" karma. He then abandoned monkhood for life as a partying,
city-slick male stripper.
When Big meets young police constable Lee Fung Yee (Cecilia Cheung), he sees visions of
her in her former life as a Japanese soldier during WWII, beheading victims with a sword.
According to the law of karma, Cecilia's gotta die. Ain't that a bitch? (I mean, the fact that
she's gonna die).
Big sees the good in her, and uses his astounding strength and martial arts abilities to help
her apprehend criminals. Plus, his karmic senses can give her the clues to murder scenes.
One such criminal is a tall, murderous Indian contortionist who knows kung fu and can fit
himself into an oversized coffee can or a mere shopping bag. (They didn't bother to credit
the actor who played him, go figure). This fella is so dangerous he can actually run on top
of the wind, slip out of handcuffs and hide in air ducts. Think Harry Houdini, Jet Li and
Rasputin all rolled into one.
Another criminal Big fights is more sympathetic. He's a black clad thief covered in oil who can
climb tall buildings like Spiderman, played by veteran goofball Hon Kwok Choi !!
He wasn't credited either, but I recognized him. Aren't you impressed?
Inevitably, Big informs Lee Fung Yee of her unfortunate fate. She decides to try and do good
deeds while she is still alive. But can she correct her bad karma?
Running on Karma is an unusual film, with moments of comedy, high drama and disturbing
violence. One wonders, however, if the the comic book style action was really necessary, or
merely included for commercial reasons. Though Yuen Bun's fight and stunt choreography are
terrific, I wonder what would have happened if To and Wai Ka Fai treated the story with more
restraint ala PTU and Expect the Unexpected. Running on Karma has plenty going for it
plotwise without relying on gimmicks. Fortunately the subject of karma itself is explored, like
the dog who died because he used to be a kid who beat dogs to death, or Big's explanation
that the chicken and shrimp he and Cecilia are eating are actually former cocaine dealers!
It should also be noted that Running on Karma contains perhaps the most creative use of
product placement that I've ever seen. Kleenex should be proud.
At the end of the movie, I was left to ponder a lot of questions, such as: Why do bad things
happen to good people? What is karma? Would Cecilia Cheung make a good girlfriend?
So many questions...
If you're still wondering whether or not to check out Running on Karma, I've made a list of 5
reasons for you (cause I'm a nice guy):
1. good script
2. Andy Lau
3. nice scenery
4. Cecilia Cheung (she's purty)
Related viewing: If U Care (2002) Eason Chan, Gillian Chung
Love on a Diet (2001) Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng
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