Review: FULL THROTTLE 烈火戰車 (1995) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Review: FULL THROTTLE 烈火戰車 (1995)

Review: FULL THROTTLE 烈火戰車 (1995)

Joe (Andy Lau) is a maverick motorcycle street racer who dedicated all his life to this sport so religiously, that he has regularly taken part in illegal racing all over the streets of Hong Kong. Joe is particularly fond of high speed and the sheer thrill of riding a motorcycle feels like a total heaven to him. One night he meets a younger racer (David Wu of MTV Asia), and the two later become friends. However, certain boundaries have subsequently jeopardised their ongoing friendship -- Wu is a professional racer being sponsored by Joe's estranged father, Paul (Paul Chun Pui) and Joe feels  excluded and upset at the same time, considering he's determining to prove that he's the best of the motorcycle racing. But then something awful happens to him during a motorcycle night race where he loses control of his bike and injured pretty badly. Joe's decent girlfriend, Yee (Gigi Leung) has been long wanted him to stop motorcycle racing because she couldn't stand living in fear that she always have to pray for his safety concerns. The accident does reflect Joe's perspective to re-evaluate his life and he promises Yee that he'll never race again. However, Joe's racing close friend, Kar-Lok (Chin Kar-Lok) can't stand watching him not getting involved anymore. Of course, it's a matter of time before Joe realises that he couldn't just quit motorcycle racing. 

REVIEW: Nominated for an impressive 10 Hong Kong Film Awards including Best Picture, but only won one for Best Film Editing, Derek Yee's FULL THROTTLE is nevertheless one of the best Hong Kong movies of 1995. Despite the overall effort is predictable, Yee's extra cinematic touch for his movie proves to be an affecting experience than one might suggest. 

Derek Yee and Law Chi-Leung's screenplay has every bookend formula all needed for this kind of sports-themed action drama but the beauty of this film is that Derek Yee knows well how to turn a very familiar story inside out into something provocative. Though the plot is straightforward, Yee blends his characters very well to compensate with the storyline that feels real and so much more involving. That said, the characters are flesh-and-blood human beings, not just typical stock roles that pretending to be one. It is this extra touch that gives this movie a cut above -- all the characters presented here are profoundly human that gradually grows on you to care about. Andy Lau is passionate in his role as a dedicated motorcycle racer, Joe that his acting skill is getting more polished these days. The baby-faced David Wu is equally credible, though his role isn't much to shout about while Chin Kar-Lok is particularly impressive as Joe's racing buddy who just doesn't know where to cross the line. 

The crucial scene where he's trying to race off against David Wu in a high-speed pursuit between a motorcycle and a sports car, but ends up losing out of control when Kar-Lok fails to avoid the oncoming truck and crashed himself underneath -- is the movie's most penetrating moment and he's definitely well-worthy for the Best Supporting Actor nod. Newcomer Gigi Leung is perfectly typecast as Joe's naive girlfriend, though admittedly her acting is rather wooden. 

The technical attributes are top-notch, with Jingle Ma and David Chung's nighttime cinematography perfectly rendering the intoxicating feel of the city landscape and the adrenalin-rush of the motorcycle racing sequences. Bruce Law's action choreography is impressive, capturing the thrill, tension and the claustrophobic feel of the high-speed racing sequences with such dramatic moments. The big action payoff, which both Joe and Wu race against each other in a long, winding road is particularly breathtaking and possibly ranked among the best motorcycle racing set pieces ever made in the history of Hong Kong cinema.

Derek Yee's motorcycle-themed sports drama may have been overly familiar, but FULL THROTTLE benefits from a strong cast and impressive action choreography.

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