Film Review: Speed Angel

Story

Japan, a year ago. On the eve of her wedding to Asano (Kitamura Kazuki), racing driver Han Bing (René Liu) discovers him having an affaire with her best friend, fellow racer You Mei (Cecilia Cheung). In the confusion, Han Bing’s younger sister is injured in a car accident, and Han Bing retires and turns to drink.

A year later she reluctantly agrees to join the re-launched Speed Angels racing team in China, under her original trainer Gao Feng (Han Jae-seok), as she needs the money to pay for her sister’s prosthetic leg. Gao Feng wants to enter the team in the first edition of the Asian Heroine Race, in which Japanese racer Sanoka (Tanaka Chie), once with Speed Angels, will be leading the rival Sakura Racing team.

In China, Gao Feng invites Hong Xiaoyi (Tang Wei), a taxi driver who helped him chase some thieves, to audition for Speed Angels, and Xiaoyi and her cousin Gigi (Cheng Yi), both racing fans, agree, despite the reluctance of Xiaoyi’s mother (Cheng Pei-pei). Gigi immediately falls for Gao Feng’s assistant, Zu (Jimmy Lin), but Han Bing, who’s still struggling with her drink problem, isn’t happy about having the untried Xiaoyi as a racing partner. When Xiaoyi fails her test because of a psychological problem from her childhood, Gao Feng pairs Han Bing with You Mei and Han Bing refuses.

Review

Though it never has any of the emotional pull of his recent beach rom-com ‘Love You You’, Hong Kong writer-director Jingle MA’s latest piece of fluff, female racing driver drama ‘Speed Angels’, never pretends to be anything it isn’t and is painless, trashy entertainment, slickly staged and with a cast who banked their cheques and hit their marks. In its cheerful lack of believability, the movie recalls an earlier era of Hong Kong quickies when action stars like Moon LEE would have been in the driving seat. The only differences now are that the film is set in China and funded by Mainland companies, has copious visual effects, and a pan-Asian name cast drawn from Chinese Mainland (TANG Wei), Taiwan (René LIU and actor-singer-professional racer Jimmy LIN), Hong Kong (Cecilia CHEUNG), South Korea (TV drama star HAN Jae-seok) and Japan (Taiwan favourite TANAKA Chie from ‘Cape No. 7’ (2008), plus handsome KITAMURA Kazuki).

The script, with its computer-generated dialogue and every issue from alcoholism to childhood trauma, female love-feuding, nasty Japanese and a traitorous mole in the Chinese ranks, doesn’t bear thinking about. But Ma wastes no time even trying to convince the audience he’s serving up anything but throwaway entertainment, and Tang, in her least ambitious but most likable performance to date, drives the movie with a relaxed insouciance and exotic array of headbands. (Future film scholars can ponder whether the latter were inspired by her ethnic look in ‘Wu Xia’ or by the Chinese name of the racing tournament.)

Billed as a guest star, Cheung is okay as the love-rival of Liu’s alcoholic racing diva, and with his lack of attitude Han blends much more easily than most South Korean actors into the largely Chinese cast. The most eccentric casting is veteran CHENG Pei-pei, onetime martial arts heroine, here in yellow glasses and headband as the kooky mother of Tang’s cabbie. The racing scenes are okay but have no adrenalin, as most of the drama is off the track, and are largely delivered via visual effects, with even CG spectators. In fact, the best action sequence is Tang’s introduction, as she gleefully races her taxi through an unnamed Chinese city and then beats up some bag-snatchers.

Source: Film Business Asia