Motorway 2012: The key to the movie’s action sequence is surprisingly

Pou-Soi Cheang’s film would make for a good lo-fi counterpoint programming to the latest Fast And Furious film, with the focus here less on what’s going on under the bonnet of the cars than the obsessions of those who drive them.

Chan (Shawn Yue or Du Van Lac) is a speed junkie. His job as a cop may put him on the right side of the law. But his reckless attitude behind the wheel is borderline criminal. There’s not much that his slow and steady partner Lo (Anthony Wong) is able to do about it. Though, meaning that Chan’s loose cannon efforts to chase down a car leave carnage in his wake and his career with the ‘invisble squad’ in tatters. But the pair’s relegation to the speed-trap beat unwittingly puts them on a collision course with long-time criminal. And blast from Lo’s past, Jiang (Guo Xiaodong). Who deliberately breaks the law in a bid to spring fellow crim Huang (Li Haitao) from jail.

The key to the movie’s action (phim hanh dong dua xe) sequence is, surprisingly. Not a road race but the ability to turn a car in the tightest spot imaginable. The revving of the engine becoming a metaphor for Chan’s own frustrations. It is in sequences such as this that Cheang brings a gritty aesthetic to bear, more interested than smoke and sparks than sleek set pieces, the smell of burning rubber almost palpable as Chan screeches after his prey either in the confines of the city or the gloomy winding roads of a mountainside. All the while, the director sees the possibility of tension in small spaces and uses this to his advantage.

Motorway (Quai Xe) producer is Johnny To and his fingerprints are all over it. From the slickly handled action sequences to the humour with which the plot is heavily laced. Despite this, the subplots are weak – the female characters. In particular, are little more than set dressing – but the central pairing of Yue and Wong is handled in a unusually touching manner for this sort of action film.

There is some fairly tight cornering required by scriptwriter Joey O’Bryan to set us on the road of the jewel heist that will drive the majority of the second-half action. But once this film’s wheels are properly in motion there is much to enjoy.

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