Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Soi Cheang
Stars: Anthony Wong, Shawn Yue, Guo Xiaodong, Michelle Ye, Barbie Hsu.
Another Chinese action film currently screening on limited release in Melbourne is Motorway, which comes across as an Asian variation on The Fast And The Furious and its ilk. Motorway is fairly formulaic and predictable stuff, but it should go over well with those who loved the recent Drive, as well as slick Hollywood films like Gone In 60 Seconds and the Fast And The Furious franchise.
Director Soi Cheang (the intriguing assassination thriller Accident, etc) and producer Johnny To have been working on Motorway since 2009, and the film has been plagued by rewrites, reshoots, and numerous re-edits. Cheang and To have decided to strip away much of the superfluous character development and subplots to offer up a lean action vehicle. And on that level, Motorway delivers.
Jiang (Guo Xiadong, from Warlords, etc) is a veteran getaway driver who is lured out of retirement for one more job, a jewellery heist. Jiang also helps a notorious criminal (Li Haitao) escape from jail. Lo (Anthony Wong, from Hardboiled, Infernal Affairs, etc) is a veteran cop with Hong Kong’s undercover pursuit unit who has previously encountered Jang but was unable to capture him. Cheung (former model Shawn Yue, from Infernal Affairs, etc) is an eager rookie in the traffic group who tries to make his name by disobeying orders and trying to take down Jiang by himself. He is dismissed from the unit, but still persists in pursuing Jang through the highways, main streets and back alleys of Hong Kong.
Cheang keeps things moving along at a fast pace, although he allows things to slow down to provide a bit of backstory for Lo, the veteran cop on the verge of retirement. And Barbie Hsu plays a surgeon, and appears briefly to provide a possible romantic interest for the lonely Cheung.
The performances from the leads are perfunctory, as the emphasis is on lots of car chases and high speed action rather than dialogue. There are plenty of car chases, although they are nowhere near as chaotic or destructive as those in Hollywood productions. However, some of the car action is impressive, thanks to the work of Chin Kar Lok and his team of stunt drivers.
Most of the action is staged almost entirely at night, and Cheang and cinematographers Yuen Man Fung and Kenny Tse shot the film guerrilla-style, without permits. However, the climactic chase through a car park is shot using natural lighting, and is a little too dark to clearly make out what is happening.
Motorway is the type of fast paced action film that cries out for a slick, big-budget Hollywood remake. And no doubt the chases will be much more frenetic and destructive.