Reviewed by YTSL
Despite its starring Andy Lau as a biker lad,
having a relationship between two disparate personalities at its core and
featuring its share of illegal motorcycle racing scenes, this 1995 Derek
Yee helmed film actually wasn’t much like what I had expected it to be:
I.e., something in between the fatalistically romantic “A Moment of Romance”
and the high on action -- but low on brain cells -- “The Legend of Speed”.
Instead, the other offering that actually came to my mind the most when
viewing this character-driven dramatic work -- and not just because Gigi
Leung is in both of these efforts -- was Sylvia Chang’s “Tempting Heart”.
On the surface, this may seem strange, if not unlikely. The point
that I’m trying to make clear here though is that that whose Chinese title
translates into English as “Chariots of Fire” is a much less adrenaline
and testosterone charged -- and simultaneously more intelligent as well
as sensitive -- affair than many people might expect of an(y) effort from
a director cum co-scriptwriter who was a former Macau Grand Prix champion.
Something else that I found very interesting as
well as admirable about FULL THROTTLE is the palpable striving on the parts
of Derek Yee and his co-scriptwriter plus assistant director, Law Chi Leung,
to make understandable the divergent points of view of pretty much all
of the different-thinking -- but equally headstrong -- individuals who
have significant parts to play in the movie. It surely is not everyday
that the makers of a film whose main male characters are the kind of men
who strive to be faster than the wind: Manage to convey -- to someone
who doesn't like fast motorcycles and cars, but does love doing such as
riding on rollercoasters and going white-water rafting -- the thrill and
adrenaline rush of racing along on a fast and powerful speed machine; yet
also confirm that such undertakings have their unnecessary dangers, too
high risks and sometimes fatal consequences.
On the one hand, Bruce Law’s stunt and action
choreography vividly communicate -- via well-shot and -edited visuals and
appropriate sounds (including that of roaring throttles but also pounding
hearts and strained breathing) -- the electrifying sensation and raw excitement
that bikers feel when speeding and negotiating turns at 200 kph.
The dialogue that Andy Lau (whose character is called Joe), David Wu (who
plays a fellow speed merchant named David Kwan), Chin Kar Lok (who portrays
Joe’s best friend, a fellow named Jianle who also can be heard being addressed
as Kar Lok) and Elvis Tsui (who plays a biker turned biker bar owner) are
given to spout is equally -- if not even more -- persuasive in its explanation
of why particular personalities in FULL THROTTLE are so strongly attracted
to get on and ride a powerful motorbike as well as motivated to “be number
one” on the road and in their chosen social milieu.
On the other hand, FULL THROTTLE does not shirk
away from showing the unpleasant aftermath of high-speed bike accidents.
The film also features plenty of personalities -- including a good-natured
grandmother essayed by veteran actress, Ha Ping -- who easily make arguments
about the foolhardiness, childishness, wastefulness and selfishness of
those who spend so much time tinkering with their expensive toys and fixating
on (drag) racing. While considering these disapproving individuals,
I got to speculating re it probably not being purely coincidental that
Derek Yee’s real-life half-brother (Paul Chun Pui) spends most of his screen
time vehemently castigating those who his Uncle Paul character looks upon
as reckless “hell angels”. Then there is the intriguing fact of Derek
Yee having bestowed the name Ah Yee on the individual who is least sympathetic
to this movie’s main man’s love of machine-propelled velocity (A move that’s
as suggestive to me re Gigi Leung’s character being the director’s designated
(primary) altar ego in this dramatic offering as the decision by Edward
Yang to have a young-but-wise character called Yang Yang in “Yi Yi”).
Considering that Derek Yee has worked as an actor
as well as director (plus scriptwriter and cinematographer), it is small
wonder that he is able to get the capable performances that he does from
his cast. Andy Lau is as good here as I’ve ever seen him. David
Wu brings as much sparkle to FULL THROTTLE as he did to his HKFA Best Newcomer-winning
“Starry is the Night” role. Chin Kar Lok shows that he can act better
than one should expect of a master stuntman. Paul Chun Pui, Elvis
Tsui and Ha Ping aren’t known for letting anyone down. In her cinematic
debut, Gigi Leung is a true revelation though. In all honesty, I
found it amazing how capable the then Hong Kong Polytechnic student was
of portraying someone who was in fact quite a few years older than she
was as well as possessed the kind of life experiences -- and probably also
personal outlook -- that was foreign to her. Although the lanky one
has her detractors, this particular performance of hers has made me her
fan in addition to contributing significantly towards making this movie
as worth viewing as I consider it to be.
My rating for the film: 8.
Distributed by Mei-Ah
The transfer is basic but fairly solid.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks.
The only menu option is for the language tracks
- no other extras and no chapters
The subtitles are burnt on Chinese and English,
but are easily readable for the most part.