Anthony Wong has been a part of so many clever and classy action films that it actually hurt watching him play a veteran cop (on the verge of retirement, nonetheless) in this mostly anonymous picture. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a harmless diversion, and I suppose you could do a lot worse than a single viewing of MOTORWAY … though, at the moment, I’m a little hard-pressed to come up with a worse suggestion.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Cheung (played by Shawn Yue) is a rookie cop too big for his britches. Recruited to serve as part of a stealth police patrol that keeps reckless street racers from doing harm, he finds himself benched with radar patrol once he makes one mistake too many. Still, his partner Lo (the aforementioned Wong) knows his sidekick has the right stuff, and, before you can say ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ he’ll take the young stud under his wing – erm, wheels? – in order to teach him the ropes for some quick moves that’ll give him the edge when chasing down the street villains.
So much of MOTORWAY veers ridiculous close to the edge of believability that it’s hard to find a whole lot in there worth enjoying. Wong and Yue do the best they can with the half-baked script, borrowing liberally from some others films that capitalized on the need for speed, be it the FAST & FURIOUS franchise and even TOP GUN. In fact, there are a handful of scenes that unfold late in the picture (I won’t spoil it) that feel almost photocopied from TOP GUN, and (would you believe it?) it’s like the voice of Obi-Wan himself is telling young Cheung how to navigate his car through the climax in order to destroy the Death Star … erm, catch the bad guys.
Like many pictures, MOTORWAY actually starts with the gem of a grand idea -- specially-recruited and trained police officers who need to be one-step-above in order to get the job done right the first time. The problem is that it ends up going nowhere fast; and, sadly, it ends with just the gem ... that is, a rather predictable heist that's kinda/sorta been done to death in way too many pictures. These players all deserved better, though no doubt they still collected a paycheck for this ride around the block.
And about that climax? I understand that director Pou-Soi Cheang may’ve been trying to add some stylish conventions to Joey O’Bryan’s video-game-quality screenplay, but I have to say that shooting a chase in an unlit parking garage where so little could be seen was probably not his smartest idea. Granted, it emphasizes that whole ‘trust your feelings, Luke’ aspect of it all, but, when audiences can’t see what’s happening, they tend to lose interest very “fast and furiously.” MOTORWAY ends up being not so much a movie with car chases as it is a car chase with a movie attached … and not a very good movie, at that.
MOTORWAY is produced by Media Asia Films, Milky Way Image Company, and Sil-Metropole Organisation. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by Lionsgate. For those needing clarification, this is a Cantonese-spoken film, though the disc offers both English-subtitles or an English-dubbed version. As is often the case with these imports, the disc is light on extras, though there is a five-minute-plus ‘making of’ short that’s really little more than a bloated theatrical trailer.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. I’ve seen far better Hong Kong actioners than MOTORWAY, but I’ve also seen far worse. A lot worse. Still, I expected better from a film involving Anthony Wong, mostly because he’s been a part of so many solid pictures than this. I don’t know what drew him to this (did he lose a bet?), even though it’s a harmless car flick that’ll probably disappear from your memory as soon as you pop it from the DVD player.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Lionsgate provided me with an advance DVD screener of MOTORWAY by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.