NOW SHOWING: MOTORWAY (Cantonese)
Directed by Soi Cheang
Starring Anthony Wong, Shawn Yue, Barbie Hsu, Guo Xiao-dong
Duration 90 minutes
Rating PG 13
IN September 2009, one of Hong Kong’s most reputable directors, Soi Cheang (Accident), announced that he would make an action thriller involving lots of cars. But the idea never materialised (it was rumoured that parts of the script underwent numerous rewrites). However, it wasn’t until summer last year that a teaser trailer for the film was released and got fans of the genre giddy with excitement.
In the meantime, Drive, directed by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling, was released and received great reviews. Refn also won the Best Director Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
Motorway is about overconfident rookie cop Cheung (Shawn Yue) who is booted off the Stealth Riders team, a secret police unit consisting of the best drivers in the force that targets underworld racing and fugitives on the run. The reason — because he left his partner Lo (Anthony Wong) on his own to deal with a fugitive, while he chased another offender.
Huang (Li Hai-tao) escapes from jail with the help of Jiang (Guo Xiao-dong) as part of their plot to steal a diamond from a diamond trader. However, their plot fails when the police force is hot on pursuit.
The movie comes across as the Asian version of The Fast and The Furious franchise, where the story line focuses on car chases and heists. It also has similar elements to Initial D (directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak), which was based on the popular Japanese manga by Shuichi Shigeno. But Motorway isn’t without originality.
Shot almost entirely at night (that’s when most of the street racing takes place), with neon lights from the cars reflecting on the windscreen, the movie has enough action scenes and coherent plots to pull it together. Cheang does away with cliched dialogues or unnecessary romantic plots, keeping to what is relevant to the story.
Motorway experiments with different camera work. In one of the car chase scenes, the audience takes the driver’s seat to experience a first-hand view. In another scene, handheld-like shots capture an entire chasing scene, almost as if you are viewing the action from the top of the car.
Yue gives a tight performance throughout. He performs all of the car stunts himself and it was reported that he cheated death once during one of the dangerous moves.
Wong proves that he can handle any role. Having shot to stardom after winning the Best Actor award at the 13th Hong Kong Film Awards for his role as Officer Lee in The Untold Story, he then went on to win a few more in Beast Cops, Ordinary Heroes and the more recent Infernal Affairs. Here, he works his magic again by giving yet another memorable performance that does not disappoint.
If you think the story has no closure, it can be attributed to Cheang’s bold stance in telling a story without conforming to a formula. Moreover, the adrenaline-pumping chase scenes that take place throughout Hong Kong, including its many back lanes, do not disappoint.
Towards the end of the movie, viewers hear Wong’s character repeating: “Choose your own path. Do not be bothered by anything in front of you and don’t rush about your choice.” Perhaps that’s Cheang’s message to his audience.