Filmed in 2009 but undergone several changes including rewrites, reshoots and numerous re-edits, Soi Cheang's much-anticipated follow-up to his critically-acclaimed ACCIDENT (2009), has unexpectedly taking almost three years to complete the entire production. Now that the movie, MOTORWAY, has finally hits the theaters -- is it worth all the wait? For genre fans, this one delivers enough revved-up excitement especially for those who likes car chase. But for others who expect a typically great Milkyway production in the vein of Johnnie To's filmmaking standard will be slightly disappointed here.
The story revolves around two-member team of Hong Kong's "Invisible Squad", Cheung (Shawn Yue) and Lo (Anthony Wong), both cops who disguised as regular drivers until they track down any traffic offenses and pull the person over. At the beginning of the movie, Cheung abandons his partner Lo on the road to chase over the fleeing offender. As a result of his reckless action, both Cheung and Lo are summoned to radar gun duty by their superior (Gordon Lam). During a somewhat routine job, Cheung manages to pin down a driver by the name of Jiang (Guo Xiaodong) who has gone beyond the speed limit. In an ensuing chase, he manages to stop him and arrests him.
Apparently Jiang has a plan of his own. Once he is brought back to the police station, he takes his chance to help his partner-in-crime, Huang Zhong (Li Haitao) escape from the prison. Nevertheless, Jiang's superior driving skill and smart getaway plan manages to outwit the police and especially Cheung, who fails to capture both of them.
But of course, Cheung refuses to give up and discovers that Jiang knows a lot about unique driving skills. He tries to master some of his driving skills so he will have his chance to apprehend him one day. At the same time, this is where Lo, who has so far only cares about his retirement plan, starts to reveal his old self and teaches Cheung a few things about driving skills.
Joey O'Bryan, Szeto Kam-Yuen and Francis Fung's screenplay is pretty straightforward and commercial at best. Which means this movie is more on style and little on substance. Soi Cheang's direction, in the meantime, is adequate if nothing particularly special. It's quite a shame that he's hardly top himself over his much superior ACCIDENT in term of overall direction and storytelling method.
But whereas the movie feels lackluster for a Milkyway production, it does benefits from some of the above-average cast. Shawn Yue is perfectly typecast as a reckless rookie cop who is really at ease when comes to intense role. Guo Xiadong is cool and charismatic enough as the cocky getaway driver, while Anthony Wong steals the show as a retiring veteran cop who is actually more than meets the eye. At first, he is introduced as a lazy cop who just wants to pass the time and waits for retirement. But he's gradually reveals his true self when he is forced to get back into the game for one last redemption of making things right. His two particular memorable scenes are the one involved his teaching over Cheung on how to control the technique of driving, and another one involved his pursuit over Jiang along the curvy roads. Unfortunately, the female cast are neglected to thankless roles -- Barbie Hsu and Michelle Ye are more like window displays, while Josie Ho's minor portrayal as senior inspector is nothing more than a barking-order caricature.
The biggest saving grace of all is its exhilarating car chase scenes. Accompanied with DRIVE-like electronic score by Alex Gopher and Xavier Jamaux, the chase scenes are also well-choreographed by Chin Kar-Lok. Unlike most car chase movies that relies heavily on CGI, the action here feels more authentic because it emphasizes more on driving skills with real stunts. Plus, you've got to admire Chin Kar-Lok's superb job on crafting most of the car chase scenes at night shot in guerrilla style without permit.
As for the ending, the movie is rather anticlimactic especially the way how the bad guys are being dealt with. Though it doesn't have the cool precision of DRIVE (2011) and the stylistic elegance of Johnnie To's direction, MOTORWAY remains a slick and reasonably entertaining genre effort.