DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: TIFF 2012 - Motorway

Friday 7 September 2012

TIFF 2012 - Motorway

Motorway is a somewhat shameless Drive knock-off but with all the car chases that weren't in Nicolas Winding Refn's film. Slight plagiarism aside, Soy Cheang's driving film exemplifies why Hong Kong has been the king of slick action cinema for years.

Motorway (2012) dir. Soi Cheang
Starring: Anthony Wong, Shaun Yeu

By Alan Bacchus

The plotting of the good guys vs. bad guys has the same ice-cold professionalism as a Michael Mann film. There are no throwaway gags or witty one-liners here. But while Mann made a fetish of procedural details of the heist, for Cheang it's the escape that gets him hard.

To support the dozen or so chase sequences anchoring the film there is a roll call of familiar action movie plotting devices. To start, our hero (Yeu) is introduced as a hot-shot young cop, who at every turn contradicts his superiors' orders in order to exercise his love for chasing people in his police car. Partnering him is Wong's character, the grizzled veteran, not exactly days away from retirement (that cliché would too obvious), but a cop with his best days behind him who prefers to sit back and take the cautious route to policing. Of course, we eventually learn he was once like his partner, a dervish behind the wheel, but he's suffering from post-traumatic stress related to an accident in the past.

We're in Shane Black buddy cop territory here, and if it wasn't for the superlative Hong Kong slickness and supercool, this would be a tedious affair.

But it isn't. Motorway cashes in on the director's desire to simply make a car chase film that fetishizes the steel machines with Zen-like reverence. Unlike the muscular fetishness of the Fast and the Furious films, the characters' attachment to their cars in Motorway is like Chow Yun Fat to John Woo's guns - ridiculous but impressively passionate.


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