Film review: Godspeed – Michael Hui makes impressive return in Taiwanese director Chung Mong-hong’s dark, absurd road movie
Hong Kong comedy legend plays against type as a down-on-his-luck taxi driver taking a drug mule across Taiwan in a film by turns life-affirming and shockingly violent
Michael Hui Koon-man has been waiting patiently for a project which offers him a leap beyond the pedestrian fare that Hong Kong cinema has been churning out. The comedy legend couldn’t have hoped for a more extraordinary opportunity than the tailor-made leading role in this unclassifiable gem by Chung Mong-hong, the Taiwanese filmmaker who regularly infuses his pitch-black human dramas with vibrant cinematic style and improbably humorous touches of irony.
Ostensibly a road movie in which two strangers renew their appreciation of life, Godspeed follows taxi driver Old Hui (played by Hui in a remarkably restrained performance), a Hong Kong native who has fallen on hard times since moving to Taipei more than two decades earlier, as he takes an unsmiling drug mule (television host Na Dow, also known as Lin Yu-chih) on a long cab ride to deliver a package in the south of Taiwan. Everything predictably goes wrong – even when they’re just looking to grab a bite.
Alongside the main strand that slowly reveals the protagonist’s miserable life, director Chung – whose fascination with quirks of fate was obvious from his fiction debut Parking (2008), also a mix of offbeat comedy, gangster thriller and art-house melodrama – displays great poise in setting up a parallel storyline around the drug dealers, whose shockingly violent encounters show that things could indeed be worse. Hui’s fans should rejoice in seeing him wisecrack in a buddy movie – however eccentric this may be.
Godspeed opens on January 5
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