HKMDB Daily News

February 7, 2013

Motorway (Hollywood Reporter review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 11:26 am

2/5/2013 by Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line
A simple but entertaining series of car chases in and around Hong Kong.

The car chase thriller is the second collaboration between director Soi Cheang and producer Johnnie To.

A relentless car chase thriller that ends up feeling less like a Hong Kong version of the Fast and Furious films than like an existentialist cousin of Walter Hill’s The Driver, Motorway lurches along at first but really shifts into high gear in the second half. Borderline humorous in the way concocts excuses for cops to start chasing bad guys every few minutes, this second collaboration between Macau-born director Soi Cheang and producer Johnnie To, after the thriller Accident in 2009, opened in Asia in July and is too strictly genre-oriented to fit the agendas of most Western festivals or foreign film distributors.

The chase that opens the film feel downright clutzy, as two Kowloon auto cops, young speed-freak Chan (Shawn Yue) and seen-it-all veteran Lo (Anthony Wong) fail to apprehend a car that’s charging through the streets and highways at an alarming pace. With the pair demoted to speed-gun duty, things poke along for a while until Mainland Chinese gangster Jiang Xin (Guo Xiaodong) gets himself deliberately hauled into jail so he can spring a cohort who will pull a big heist for which he’ll be the driver.

For a while, interest flags because there’s nothing much at stake and the chases don’t produce any real tension. Through the middle section, car talk takes precedence over plot, as Lo tries to pass on some know-how to Chan before the older man’s retirement, notably how to make a seemingly impossible turn in the very tight space. Veteran Wong makes the most from very little in building Lo into a fairly interesting character — he seems quite young to be retiring — and Michelle Ye similarly supplies more than required as Lo’s wife.

U.S.-born Joey O’Bryan co-wrote the script for the 2001 release Fulltime Killer, which was co-directed by To, and once the story he wrote for this one and then scripted with Szeto Kam-yuen and Francis Fung sharpens its focus, Motorway snaps into place. The action is now nocturnal, it moves from the city to winding roads in the hills, the use of slow-mo increases, as does the ratio of music to talk, there are moments of stillness and an air of moody fatalism descends upon the proceedings that makes the details of the plot seem less important than the fact that the men keep racing their cars, just as surely as the Earth keeps turning. “If you lose your drive, you’re worse off than a broken car,” Lo advises his protege; as almost mock-profound as this sounds, it does serve to echo the man-defined-as-action ethos that asserts itself at the end.

Some of the car stuff has a catch-as-catch-can feel, but some sequences are cool and breath-catching, including one in which a car is made to encircle it prey like a boxer might dance while encircling his victim. The cast is solid and it all comes in at under 90 minutes.

Venue: Santa Barbara Film Festival
Production: Sil-Metropole Organization, Media Asia Films
Cast: Anthony Wong, Shawn Yue, Guo Xiaodong, Gordon Lam, Barbie Hsu, Josie Ho, Michelle Ye, Li Haitao, Li Guangjie
Director: Soi Cheang
Screenwriters: Joey O’Bryan, Szeto Kam-yuen, Francis Fung, based on an original story by Joey O’Bryan
Producer: Johnnie To
Executive producers: Song Dai, John Chong
Director of photography: Edmond Fung, Kenny Tse
Production designer: Simon So
Costume designer: Boey Wong
Editors: David Richardson, Allen Leung
Music: Javier Jamaux, Alex Gopher
86 minutes

September 7, 2012

Motorway (Screen Daily review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 4:58 pm

6 September, 2012
By Mark Adams

Dir: Soi Cheang. Hong Kong China. 2012. 85mins

A slickly shot action-thriller that could benefit from the popularity of recent car chase films such as Drive and the Fast & Furious series, Motorway (Che sau) is a smart bit of full-throttle entertainment that could find an eager audience with a love of all things action and automotive.

The film bears all the hallmarks of its producer Johnnie To – smooth kinetic action scenes; understated heroes and villains and stylish directorial moments – and while the story is pretty straightforward and predictable Motorway (not the most inspired of titles) delivers plenty of tyre-screeching moments and moves with plenty of high-octane energy.

Unlike Drive and Fast & Furious, this film eschews celebrating the criminal fraternity and sticks on the side of law-and-order as it follows the pairing of cops Lo Fung (veteran actor Anthony Wong), who is soon set to retire, and eager rookie Chan Cheung (a nicely determined Shawn Yue), who are part of Hong Kong police’s ‘Invisible Squad’, a unit that use fast cars (Audis in this case) to chase speedsters.

As is usually the case in such films, Lo Fung is counting the days till he retires, but he past comes back to haunt him when legendary getaway driver Jiang Xin (Guo Xiaodong) arrives back in Hong Kong. He arranges to get himself caught in a speed-trap so he can set in motion a plan to spring his old partner-in-crime Huang Zhong (Li Haitao) from jail.

Super-confident Cheung chases their getaway car, but is humiliated when Xin leads him into a tight alley and a turn so tight no driver should be able to get round it. Xin manages this incredible feat, which strikes a chord with Fung who recalls he came up against the same drivers many years before.

The third act – the film is based pretty much the old three-act structure – sees the Motorway switch into full-on action mode as the police intensity to catch the bad-guys is racked up (Zhong happily kills any police in his way). They are planning a jewellery heist, which nicely sets up the film for – in a novel twist – the main car chase to take part in a packed underground car park (which offers Cheung the chance to prove he has mastered the super-tight-turn trick that Xin uses as part of his escape plans) before heading out onto a blessedly empty motorway.

In many ways the film is more similar to Walter Hill’s 1978 classic Driver, though Soi Cheang’s direction, while slick, lacks a colour palette or vivid shooting style to set it alongside that film, or even recent retro-style hit Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. But the cop pairing of Anthony Wong and Shawn Yue works rather well.

The women characters are rather limited at best, with only Barbie Hsu making an impact as a pool-playing surgeon who is disdainful of Cheung’s driving skills, but in the end Motorway is more about the fast cars, screeching tyres and throbbing engines…and there are plenty of loving shots of them to keep action-loving petrol-heads happy.

Production companies: Media Asia Films, Sil-Metropole Organization, Milkyway Image

International sales: Media Asia Distribution,

Producer: Johnnie To

Executive producers: John Chong, Song Dai

Co-producers: Shirley Lau, Lorraine Ho, Ren Yue, Lam Ping-kwan. Screenplay: Joey O’Bryan, Szeto Kam Yuen, Francis Fung, based on the original story by O’Bryan

Cinematography: Fung Yuen Man, Tse Chung-to

Editors: David Richardson, Allen Leung

Production designer: Simon So

Music: Xavier Jamaux, Alex Gopher

Main cast: Shawn Yue, Anthony Wong, Guo Xiaodong, Barbie Hsu, Li Haitao, Lam Ka-tung, Michelle Ye, Josie Ho

July 9, 2012

July 9, 2012 [HKMDB Daily News]

FBA: Design of Death review

Boisterous black village comedy is flawed by a weak structure and lack of a strong central core.

FBA: Sweet Eighteen review

Offbeat portrait of a teenage lesbian crush marks a promising directorial debut.

FBA: Falling Flowers review

Biopic of 1930s Chinese writer Xiao Hong looks fabulous but lacks involving drama.

FBA: To Forgive review

Island mystery is an interesting calling-card for a first-time director.

FBA: Motorway review

Slick, engaging thriller blends cars, crime and characterisation in a fresh way.

TimeOutHK: Tony Leung Ka-Fai interview

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Anthony Wong, Ankie Beilke

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May 7, 2012 [HKMDB Daily News]

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , , — dleedlee @ 12:16 pm

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Vincent Zhao, Yang Mi

Yang Mi (Sina)

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Anthony Wong

Shawn Yue, Anthony Wong, direcotr Soi Cheang Pou-Soi (Sina)

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May 4, 2012 [HKMDB Daily News]

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , , , — dleedlee @ 3:29 pm

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