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Motorway - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Che sau

Hong Kong 2012

Action, Crime, Thriller

Cheang Pou-Soi

Shawn Yue
Anthony Wong
Guo Xiaodong
Josie Ho
Barbie Hsu
Gordon Lam
Michelle Ye
Anson Leung
Wilfred Yau

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Story: Cheung (Shawn Yue) is a police officer responsible for traffic offenders. His partner Lo (Anthony Wong) is on the brink of retiring and he is not interested in his young partner's craze for speed. After work hours, Cheung keeps pursuing speeders by daring them to do dangerous races with him. One day, though, the legendary driver Jiang (Guo Xiaodong) frees a jewel thief from prison. The police do not stand a chance against Jiang's driving skills, even Cheung reaches his limits and looses him during a car chase. The police have to assume that Jiang plans a big coup with the freed gangster and they are on red alert. In the meantime, Cheung learns that his partner Lo used to work on Jiang's case and could actually teach him a thing or two to improve his driving skills. But Lo is not willing to risk his life for the thrill of speed anymore and wants to prevent Cheung from doing so as well. However, the two of them seem to be the only ones with a chance against Jiang.

Review: Fast cars, Hong Kong's streets by night, a dark thriller atmosphere - it could have been so good, but "Motorway" (and nice words will not help here) sinks like a stone. Apart from its great look and some nice car chase scenes, the movie does not have a lot to offer. This is not supposed to mean that a movie like this cannot be a lot of fun to watch, anyway, but with its flat characters and the minimalist script "Motorway" spoils even this opportunity. How should an adrenalin-fuelled action thriller possibly be able to build up suspense if none of the characters actually mean anything to us? No matter how many tricks the drivers have up their sleeves and put to use, director Cheang Pou-Soi, who was at the wheel here, drove the movie into a wall.

Looking at other reviews of the movie, you might think that I am being a bit too harsh with "Motorway". This might even be true to a certain extent but a director like Cheang has to be measured by his talent. Which he does not show at all, except for the above-mentioned look of the movie. The man who brought us the ever so rough "Dog Bite Dog" or the entertaining thriller "Accident" sinks back down to the disappointing level of his "Shamo". It seems that especially Cheang cannot tap his full potential without the help of a good scriptwriter. But how he manages to even neglect Mr. "I-save-the-acting-requirements-of-the-movie-all-by-myself" Anthony Wong is almost a crime.

This brings us to the characters, if you can even call them that. They only have one purpose and keep the movie on a very predictable track. Especially when a tragic blow of fate suddenly befalls one of the characters, we realize that we are not emotionally involved in the story at all. We simply do not care about who lives and who dies. In the generally rather uncommunicative movie, Shawn Yue is probably one of the most quiet fellows. At the same time, his incredible ambition gets more and more annoying and he simply seems like a stubborn little child. In addition, there is no chemistry between him and Anthony Wong, either. Wong has the best scenes with his wife on a park bench, even though they hardly talk to each other. This is just sad.

The movie's lack of creativity is also emphasized by the fact that the bad guy is a Mainland Chinese who wants to steal a giant jewel. As if we had not already seen this like a trillion times in previous Hong Kong thrillers... Needless to say, that the bad guy also lacks personality. Actually, the movie's plot is so sparse that its running time of 90 minutes is even measured rather generously. At least the movie is full of action, even though this sometimes turns out to be more sobering than expected. When you do not care about the characters and the movie turns out to be completely predictable right from the beginning up until its showdown, there is simply nothing compelling left anymore. The fast cars flashing by leave us unimpressed.

Cheang's innovative style cannot be found anywhere and the director's signature is more one of a Milkyway-flick. Which isn't a negative thing, as the Hong Kong production company still knows how to perfectly stage the city. You can really fall in love with the images, but it also emphasizes once more how hollow the movie is under its shiny bodywork. Nevertheless, if you are only looking for an action movie with fast cars, you will probably have a nice time, because "Motorway" is a stickler for details when it comes to that and offers some very strong car chase scenes. As a thriller, the movie should have shifted down a gear, though, for the characters and the story are in need of some repairs.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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