PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2012, 12:00am


Starring: Anthony Wong Chau-sang, Shawn Yue Man-lok, Guo Xiaodong
Directed by: Soi Cheang Pou-soi
Category: IIB (Cantonese)

A low-octane script puts the emotional brakes on one of the year's most technically deft thrillers.

Director Soi Cheang Pou-soi has crafted a tightly paced cops-and-robbers adventure that accomplishes wonders on wheels while petering out when it comes to a gripping tale.

Cheang, one of Hong Kong's quirkier directors, becomes trapped in the pitfalls of racing dramas by placing undue emphasis on stunts to the detriment of story development.

The scenario by Joey O'Bryan, Szeto Kam-yuen and Francis Fung Yat-chun contains plenty of potentially idiosyncratic roles, first is veteran policeman Lo (Anthony Wong Chau-sang), a car-shy officer nearing retirement who nearly lost his life years earlier in a crash involving Jensen (Guo Xiaodong), a notorious underworld getaway driver.

Lo's partner is hotshot Sean (Shawn Yue Man-lok, above), whose derring-do forms a neat contrast with the oldster's caution. This is shown in the movie's exciting opening, staged by action choreographer Chin Ka-lok, and adroitly combines humour and stunts to introduce one of Hong Kong law enforcement's odder couples.

There's no denying the dexterity of individual sequences, in particular an intricately staged prison break where the special effects enhance rather than overpower what is on screen.

A highlight that both spotlights and disdains Sean's wheeled obsession occurs when he tries to impress a pretty girl with some motorised macho moves around a soft drink can. Just when you think there will be no end to his arrogance, she cuts him down to size by calling his antics 'juvenile'.

She turns out to be a doctor (Barbie Hsu Hsi-yuan), one of a trio of strong women who cross Motorway's paths. Along with a tough crime unit commander (Josie Ho Chiu-yee) and Lo's no-nonsense wife (Michelle Ye Xuan), they are but a few of the characters the screenplay leaves woefully under-fuelled.

The performers are almost charismatic enough to mask the plot's thinness. But insufficient fleshing-out of characters and situations ultimately makes the racing, no matter how skilful, barely worth the petrol it takes to get Motorway hurtling across the finish line.

Motorway opens today