Running on Karma

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Running on Karma
Running on Karma.jpg
Film poster
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 大隻佬
Simplified Chinese 大只佬
Directed by Johnnie To
Wai Ka-fai
Written byWai Ka-fai
Yau Nai-hoi
Au Kin-yee
Yip Tin-shing
Produced byJohnnie To
Wai Ka-fai
Starring Andy Lau
Cecilia Cheung
Cinematography Cheng Siu-Keung
Edited by Law Wing-cheung
Music byCacine Wong
Distributed by China Star Entertainment Group
Release date
  • 27 September 2003 (2003-09-27)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryHong Kong
Language Cantonese
Box officeHK$26,339,848

Running on Karma (traditional Chinese :大隻佬; simplified Chinese :大只佬/大块头有大智慧; Literal Title: Big Guy/Big Guy has big wisdom), also known as An Intelligent Muscle Man, is a 2003 Hong Kong action thriller film produced and directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai. The film is ultimately a Buddhist parable about the nature of karma. There were some cuts in the Mainland China edition to meet the requirements for release there.


This is the second film starring Andy Lau in which he wears a prosthetic suit. In his previous film, Love on a Diet , he wore a fat suit, while in this film, he wears a muscle suit. Principal photography began from March to July 2003, though filming was interrupted in April due to the SARS pandemic.

Running on Karma was a critical and commercial success, grossing HK$26,339,848 at the Hong Kong box office, making it the third-highest grossing film of the year in the territory, and received 13 nominations at the 23rd Hong Kong Film Awards, winning Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Actor for Lau, who wins the award for the second time after being awarded for his performance in Running Out of Time in 2000. In addition, Lau's performance in the film also won him the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor and the Chinese Film Media Awards for Best Actor of the Hong Kong/Taiwan region.


Big (Andy Lau) was a Buddhist Monk, but he gave up this occupation when he realized he could see a person's past life, which would mean he would be able to predict what would happen to that person because of Karma. Big then became a bodybuilder and worked in a strip bar when he ran into Lee Fung-yee (Cecilia Cheung). Lee was working as an undercover cop in the CID which busted Big in his strip show, but Big became entangled in another police case to catch a murderer when he tried to escape.

While Big was running away from Lee's pursuit, he saw a police dog and has visions of the dog's previous life. The dog was previously a child who beat up dogs, and the dog was shot by a stray bullet meant for the criminal. This was the first time that Big showed his ability to see the past, and later saw the past life of Lee, a Japanese soldier killing civilians.

Big (after realizing that Lee was kind-hearted), decided to help her in the investigation of a homicide, but also swore to leave her after they solved the case. After Big had inspected the corpse, he saw the deceased's previous life. The deceased had betrayed the murderer in his previous life and hence killed by him in this life. Big also saw that in the previous life of the murderer, before the murderer died, he cut off a one-horn beetle's left arm and hence deduced that in the current life, there would be someone without a left arm who would help to find the present murderer. Big successfully helped the police to arrest the murderer and saved Lee's life in the process as well. Her karma gets broken as well but subsequently returned, as seen through Big's vision. He also stopped an angry police sergeant who was beating the murderer by saying to him, "One thought Heaven, One thought Hell" (一念天堂,一念地獄).

Lee, now realizing that she was, in her previous life, a Japanese soldier, made efforts to compensate for the atrocities she committed in her previous life. Deciding to repay Big before she dies, Lee decided to find Big's childhood friend's killer, and she thinks the killer is hiding in the mountains somewhere. She went to the mountains and on the sixth day of her journey, she encounters the killer at a part of the mountains where Big never went to find his friend's killer. The killer runs away from her while she tries to help him. Then, the killer comes behind her, and drags her to a rocky place where she was hit by a rock in the head, and beheaded by the murderer. The whole incident was recorded by her video camera. The video camera was retrieved after a search party to look for her. Big saw the video after a police officer showed it to him and he gets angry and goes to the mountains. When he was on the mountains, he heard Lee's watch. He followed the sound to her buried body in the ground and her head in a tree. He became enraged and pursued a man, presuming he is Lee's killer into an underground temple. Big, expecting to find the killer in the temple but found his future self, a killer, bloodthirsty and vengeful. They argued and fought and came to terms peacefully in meditation.

Big becomes a monk again and lives on the mountain. After five years, he meets his childhood friend's killer again, and in forgiveness, escorts him kindly to the police. In the end, at the "place where Big couldn't jump over," we see the positive karma that Lee cultivated and radiated ultimately saved Big.

Hilary Hongjin He, a doctoral student at the University of Western Sydney, wrote that the version of the film released in Mainland China stated that the editing, required by Mainland authorities, was "substantial" to the point where it "fundamentally degraded the philosophical, thought-provoking movie to a senseless commercial film selling stars and special effects make-up". [1]


Awards and nominations

Awards and nominations
23rd Hong Kong Film Awards
Best Film Running on KarmaWon
Best Director Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai Nominated
Best Actor Andy Lau Won
Best Actress Cecilia Cheung Nominated
Best Screenplay Wai Ka-fai, Yau Nai-hoi, Au Kin-yee, Yip Tin-shing Won
Best Supporting Actor Cheung Siu-fai Nominated
Best Film Editing Law Wing-cheung Nominated
Best Art Direction Bruce YuNominated
Best Costume Make Up Design Bruce Yu, Stephanie WongNominated
Best Action Choreography Yuen BunNominated
Best Original Film Song Song: Affairs Beyond a Human Being (身外情)

Composer: Gaybird
Lyrics: Albert Leung
Sung by: Anthony Wong

Best Sound Design Martin Chappell, May Mok, Charlie LoNominated
Best Visual Effects Stephen MaNominated
10th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
Best ActorAndy LauWon
Best ActressCecilia CheungWon
Best ScreenplayWai Ka-fai, Yau Nai-hoi, Au Kin-yee, Yip Tin-shingWon
Film of MeritRunning on KarmaWon
9th Golden Bauhinia Awards Best FilmRunning on KarmaNominated
Best DirectorJohnnie To, Wai Ka-faiNominated
Best ActorAndy LauNominated
Best ScreenplayWai Ka-fai, Yau Nai-hoi, Au Kin-yee, Yip Tin-shingNominated
Top 10 Chinese-language filmRunning on KarmaWon
HKSAR 10th Anniversary Film AwardsBest ActorAndy LauNominated
Best ScreenplayWai Ka-fai, Yau Nai-hoi, Au Kin-yee, Yip Tin-shingNominated
Most Creative FilmRunning on KarmaNominated
41st Golden Horse Awards
Best Costume Make Up DesignBruce Yu, Stephanie WongNominated
Best Original Film SongSong: Affairs Beyond a Human Being (身外情)

Composer: Gaybird
Lyrics: Albert Leung
Sung by: Anthony Wong

Best Action ChoreographyYuen BunNominated
Best Visual EffectsStephen MaNominated
4th Chinese Film Media Awards Best Film (Hong Kong/Taiwan)Running on KarmaNominated
Best Director (Hong Kong/Taiwan)Johnnie To, Wai Ka-faiNominated
Best Actor (Hong Kong/Taiwan)Andy LauNominated
Best Actress (Hong Kong/Taiwan)Cecilia CheungNominated
Best Screenplay (Hong Kong/Taiwan)Wai Ka-fai, Yau Nai-hoi, Au Kin-yee, Yip Tin-shingWon
Most Popular Film from Hong Kong/TaiwanRunning on KarmaNominated
Most Popular Actor from Hong Kong/TaiwanAndy LauSilver
Most Popular Actress from Hong Kong/TaiwanCecilia CheungGold


See also

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  1. He, Hilary Hongjin (2010). ""One Movie, Two Versions": Post-1997 Hong Kong Cinema in Mainland China" (PDF). Global Media Journal Australian Edition. University of Western Sydney. p. 5/16. ISSN   1835-2340.
  2. "Running on Karma (2003) - LoveHKFilm".