Motorway (2012)
By: Rip on June 18, 2013 | Comments
Eastern Eye | Region 4, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Cantonese DD 5.1 | 85 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Pou-Soi Cheang
Starring: Anthony Wong, Shawn Yue, Xiaodong Guo, Barbie Hsu, Josie Ho
Screenplay: Joey O'Bryan, Kam-Yuen Szeto
Country: Hong Kong
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Motorway follows cops Lo Fung (the legendary Anthony Wong), who is soon to retire, and overly enthusiastic rookie Chan Cheung (Shawn Yue), who are part of the 'Invisible Squad', a Hong Kong police unit that use fast cars to chase down those who defy speed limits on the city's streets. Just as Lo Fung's time in the force is about to end, his past comes back to haunt him when an infamous getaway driver by the name of Jiang Xin (Guo Xiaodong) arrives back in Hong Kong and arranges to get himself caught in a speed-trap as part of a plan to spring his old mate Huang Zhong (Li Haitao) from jail. The ever confident Cheung chases their getaway car, but is ultimately humiliated when Xin leads him through a very tight lane with a turn so tight no driver should be able to get round it. Of course, Xin manages this incredible feat, and this strikes a chord with Fung who recalls that he came up against the very same driver many years before. The film then takes off in the third act, with the intensity to catch the villains reaching boiling point as Zhong bumps off every single cop who gets in the way of his and Xin's planned jewellery heist. Fast cars, screeching tyres and throbbing engines ensue…

Being somewhat of a closet 'rev-head', I thoroughly enjoyed Motorway. Produced by the great Johnny To (Election, etc), and though obviously inspired by Walter Hill's The Driver and Nicolas Winding Refn's more recent Drive, Motorway eschews any excess story and superfluous character development to concentrate on presenting itself as a stylish urban thriller about a mob of cooler than cool dudes who get into a series of carefully constructed and superbly executed car chases through the heart of Hong Kong. Set almost entirely at night, the film provides just enough plot to string the stunts together, while throwing out any suggestion of romance, melodrama or, for the most part, conversation. At a lean 89 minutes, the film's stripped-back narrative is arguably to the film's credit, with about 75% of its run time spent on the road. The characters pretty much exist to service the action and provide a motive for another beautifully shot chase sequence.

That said, Motorway is not all just car chases and crashes. The film features a very cool techno score by Alex Gopher and Xavier Jamaux, along with many familiar faces from Hong Kong cinema that fans will instantly recognize. Lam Kar Tung and Josie Ho appear as police seniors who are almost always a few steps behind the main antagonist, and of course everyone's favourite HK bad boy, the wonderful Anthony Wong, in a rare good guy role. Barbie Hsu doesn't fair as well (though no fault of her own) with a pretty thankless role that's decorative at best and here mainly to balance all the testosterone on display. And leading man Shawn Yue is fine as the impetuous Chan Cheung, a character who's motivations are unfortunately never really made clear in the film. As a consequence, when partner Lo Fung's backstory is eventually revealed, it creates an imbalance. Cheung remains an enigma who is expected to carry the balance of the film on his shoulders, even though Lo has engendered greater sympathy and understanding. Jiang Xin and his loose-cannon partner appear to have greater chemistry between them than that of our heroes. Still, it's a minor hiccup in what is otherwise another great flick from director Soi Cheang, the man behind some other very cool titles, such as Dog Eat Dog and Accident.
The Disc
Madman's Eastern Eye Dvd presentation of Motorway appears in a 16x9 enhanced 1:78:1 aspect ratio. The print here is very clean, with not a blemish to be found. Sharpness and detail are very good. Blacks and shadow detail are excellent, which is important for a film staged mainly at night. English subtitles appear in a yellow font. Good stuff all around.

Audio comes in both Cantonese and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks. Naturally, in a film about cars racing about, you'd expect a nice, enveloping sound field and that's exactly what we get. The subwoofer gets a decent workout too, with the multitude of crashes and rumbling engines in the film thumping through the mix. And that great musical score throbs away nicely. All in all, this a great audio track, as befits a movie like this.

Unfortunately, in the extras department we only get the the film's trailer and 4 other Eastern Eye previews. But I guess we should be thankful for even getting this neat flick here in Australia, as it hasn't yet been released on the home video format in either the USA or UK, so kudos to Madman. This is the type of movie that would be wonderful on Blu-Ray, but we only get a DVD here. If you're after a Blu-Ray, you'll have to go the Region A Hong Kong release, which also contains a 'making-of'.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Motorway is a petrol-head's wet dream. Far superior to the more conventional likes of the Fast And Furious franchise and lacking the arguable pretensions of Drive, it's a slick, no-nonsense action thriller, and along with all that rubber, it's got style to burn. Recommended.
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