Motorway once again finds Soi Cheang (Accident) teaming up with producer Johnnie To for the latest Milkyway production. Which can only mean one thing; it’s time for another bout of adrenaline-fuelled cool. Realism is the name of the game in Soi Cheang’s latest thrill ride, with exhilarating car chases and jaw-dropping stunts shying away from Bruckheimer style and sheen.
You’ll actually feel like you’re part of the action when the pedal hits the metal, alongside Initial D stars Shawn Yue and Anthony Wong, no strangers to unadulterated racing action. Yue and Wong play elite traffic cops in a secret police unit that upholds the law in unmarked police cars. Gordon Lam, Barbie Hsu, Michelle Ye and Josie Ho are along for the ride, not to mention some really fast cars and an icy cool exterior long associated with the Milkyway brand.
Chan Cheong (Shawn Yue) is the rookie driver of the team. He’s also arrogant, immature and reckless – think Tom Cruise in Top Gun, only less smiley. He’s not even that good at picking up women, but I guess that’s why they invented character development. Lo Fung (Anthony Wong) is his ageing partner, days away from retirement and philosophical like Yoda. It’s fairly obvious they’re not that close, not for the time being anyway. If all of this is sounding a little too familiar, don’t worry, what Motorway lacks in originality it makes up for in engine size.
One day, while on duty, Cheong encounters the triad's legendary getaway driver Jiang Xin (Guo Xiaodong) and manages to arrest him with relative ease. He doesn’t have time to gloat though; as it turns out, Xin’s arrest was part of the plan to break out one of his convicted colleagues. Xin escapes, Cheong stomps around like a spoilt teenager, Lo Fung pulls him to one side and teaches him the ways of the Force… see what I did there? Now the chase is on, albeit, in an over familiar, occasionally subdued, low-key kind of way.
Motorway’s icy cool exterior could easily be mistaken for pedestrian, which is something you want to avoid when making a racing movie. It’s not that the driving sequences lack punch, more that everybody involved is playing it so damn cool, making it hard to connect with some of the characters. Yue has never been one for emotional range anyway, so maybe in his case that’s a good thing, but it would’ve been nice to take a longer look under the bonnet.
The female cast members barely get a look in either, which is not unusual for a Milkyway production. Barbie Hsu and Michelle Ye aren’t really asked to do anything of significance, and as much as I love the sight of Josie Ho in all her movies, she does seem ‘out of sorts’ as Motorway’s Senior Inspector. Which means it’s down to Anthony Wong to supply the acting muscle, and he rarely lets us down, providing the film with its one true rounded character.
So the characters are weak and the storyline is familiar, but that shouldn’t prevent you from thumbing a lift. It’s fairly obvious where the film is going but you probably wont have time to care. Cheang fills the emptiness with electrifying car chases and ensures, above all else, that his latest thrill ride stays in the fast lane at all times. The characters might be running on empty - our two bad guys do put up a fight - but the action sequences aren’t, and paired with Wong’s commanding lead performance, Motorway still manages to thrill, excite and ignite in all the right places.
Fans of Milkyway’s gritty blend of genre filmmaking and arthouse cinema will know what to expect from Soi Cheang’s latest, and from that perspective, it rarely disappoints. A combination of exhilarating chase sequences and Anthony Wong’s well-oiled machine (that sounds wrong) ensure that – for ninety minutes – you won’t mind getting stuck in traffic. AW