Don’t let the title fool you. After its opening scene, which resembles a multi-angle replay in your favourite driving game, very little of the action in Soi Cheang’s surprisingly low-key action melodrama takes place on the open road. Most of the locations are considerably more interesting.
This Kowloon cops-and-robbers pursuit thriller features car chases in a maze of small roads on a mountain top, in a darkened parking lot where the vehicles prowl like deadly sharks, and through narrow alleyways where astonishing feats of vehicular agility – including an incredible ninety-degree turn – are required to catch the bad guys.
Restless young cop (Shawn Yue) receives the baton of ace driver from wizened partner (Anthony Wong) in a decades-long attempt to catch veteran getaway driver Xiaodong Guo. ‘It doesn’t matter how well you steer, if you lose your drive you’re worse off than a broken car,’ says Wong’s Obi-Wan like voice inside Yue’s head at the film’s climax, underlining the film’s fusion of man and machine, vehicle and driver as in so many of its venerable forebears. Comparisons with Nicholas Refn’s Drive are off the mark. Motorway is pure genre, but brings welcome variety by reining in the hyperkinetics.
Dr Harvey O’Brien, Lecturer in Film Studies, UCD