Need for Speed: Professor Teaches Student New Tricks in Cheang’s Goofy Chase Actioner
Utilizing the both tried, and tired formula of the hours away from retirement cop staying in the game for one last hurrah paired with the impatient rookie still wet behind his ears, Motorway pegs itself as a “this time it’s personal” type of revenge film, but on wheels. It may be the burnt rubber on the alleyways and highways of Hong Kong, but if Soi Cheang’s B-grade street chase actioner reeks it’s simply because the entire film appears to be stuck neutral.
Featuring a protagonist (Shawn Yue) who has driving in his blood as he shifts from reprimanded officer to moonlight speed aficionado, but has a lot more to learn in terms of psychology and stick shift tricks. With the type of screenplay that lends itself to dull street vantage points galore, the break down of this more commercial type begins with a traffic violation, an inside job, some reprimanding from the higher up, a little trial and error before a climatic chase sequence where everything learned is put into practice. Curiously working with a leveled fighting approach reminiscent of The Raid, the writing team of Joey O’Bryan, Kam Yuen SzeTo and Francis Fung appear to toss in just about every underground Hong Kong crime Johnnie To factory type device possible to little effect.
While Cheang’s last feature Accident at least attempted to rig in a look to match atmospherics, for much of the film’s 90 minutes of unflattering non-Michael Mann like nocturnal hues, we are treated to less than tight editing, choppy visuals and continuity problems that shamefully weigh down what is supposed to be the dessert portions of the film. Worse yet, what is supposed to be the film’s game-changing moment is a bizarre sequence about a narrow alleyway, somehow foreshadows the film’s key laugh-track moment, a trick that involves moving your hot rod in a Tetris like sideways positioning. Sexy beasts with four wheels in car chase flicks either look the part or they don’t – any middle ground model is a cheap alternative.
Reviewed on September 12th at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival – Vanguard Programme.