Motorway, directed by Soi Cheang, is a simple tale of a cop who wants to drive fast, and a thief who’s pulled back into the chase. Shawn Yue acts alongside action legend Anthony Wong as two members of the Stealth Riders, a secret police squad made of their best drivers. Yue as Cheung, the plucky but skilled newcomer, is stuck with the tired, but mysteriously knowledgeable veteran cop, Lo, played by Wong. During Cheung’s first week on the job he runs into Sun, a gateway driver who’s been on the run for years.
Does Lo turn out to have been the master driver who let Sun escape the first time? And will Cheung be forced to learn the high octane rules of the road from the old legend?
Yes, but if you bothered to ask those questions you’re thinking too hard about this movie. Motorway is foremost about speed and mood. The cars’ engines roar through the speakers as one gets the sense that they’re moving beside the drivers. The scenes are tight, close to the road and the cars. The few moments there’s a wide open road,
The action, of course, is fantastic. There are three elaborate racing set pieces in which cars go through a devious series of alleyways, barely avoid crashes, and make 90 degree turns. Cheung, if there’s anything he’s carried over from Accident, it’s the tension. The cinematography makes for a moody atmosphere that makes the film seem more contemplative than it actually is. The music is a fantastic accompaniment to the action. It aims for the anxiety and pressure of Drive over the over the bombast of The Fast and The Furious.
The characters are hilarious clichés, to the point that if you’ve seen any remnant of Asian cinema from anime to Jackie Chan, you already know who these guys are and what they will do. Cheung is the newbie, and has little motivation beyond loyalty and the desire to prove himself. But that’s three dimensional compared to Sun, whose sole goal seems to be to steal things of value and hurt people with his car. Plus, Motorway wastes time on an unimportant love interest who exists to look pretty and give Cheung another opportunity to look cool.
At times Motorway feels like the gritty sequel to Speed Racer, because despite the veil of night hanging over most of this film, and a couple murders, it’s quaintly entertaining. The film is a great victory for style over substance. Yet, the movie is ultimately forgettable. Without great characters and a plot worth remembering, this movie will feel like riding in a Porsche the first time you watch it, but in hindsight, just another Pontiac.
Cast: Shawn Yue, Anthony Wong
Directed by: Soi Cheang
Top image: A scene from Motorway. Courtesy TIFF.