Director: Jingle Ma
Starring, Tang Wei, Rene Liu, Cecilia Cheung, Han Jae-suk, Jimmy Lin, Kazuki Kitamura, Cheng Pei-pei
New from director Jingle Ma, Speed Angels comes to us with a large international cast, fast cars, and with what seems to be a surplus of pretty faces. Released to a generally tepid box office late last year, Speed Angels was a success, but moderately so. With its recent release for home video, those of us here in the West finally have an opportunity to view it. So is this tale of racing, love, and pretty faces worth your time?
Speed Angels tells the story of the Speed Angels, a group of female racers preparing for a big racing event. Rene Liu plays Bing, a superstar racer who disappeared from the racing scene when her best friend and fellow teammate Mei, played by Cecilia Cheung, steals her fiancée. In the ensuing fallout of the discovery, Bing’s sister is injured and requires expensive medical attention prompting her sudden departure. As a result, Bing is a shadow of her former self and is now an alcoholic. Enter Xiaoyi, played by Tang Wei, a taxicab driver with incredible technique who gets recruited to join the Speed Angel team as Bing’s partner. The reappearance of Mei on the rival Sakura racing team and Xiaoyi’s discovery of romantic feelings for their coach, played by Han Jae Suk, forces the two untested teammates together. As the big race approaches, Bing and Xiaoyi will have to shed personal baggage and anxieties to become the team they were meant to be.
Jingle Ma is a director who makes films that are super commercialized, flashy, and easy to swallow. As a result of this carefully planned populist approach to filmmaking, Speed Angels squanders its talent in clichéd performances and uninteresting character relationships. Of particular note is Tang Wei, her love struck and self conscious Xiaoyi is a far cry from her brilliant performance in 2007’s Lust, Caution. It seems that the media ban she experienced following that film has forced her to make the leap to the more commercial side of HK’s movie industry. This is unfortunate since I felt her recent performance in Late Autumn was solid and nuanced. Hopefully this is just a role to pay the bills and not a new career shift.
The film is kind of unfocused, introducing unnecessary characters and plot points that seem to simply pad out running time as opposed to contributing to the story. A leaner film very well may have benefited the final product. The film is polished enough with solid production values, but I was VERY unhappy with the final race being presented as an almost entirely computer animated finale. Technically the CGI is alright but it is blatantly and that really takes the viewer out of it. It looks similar to the CGI of 2006’s Speed Racer, but fails to impress because of the real world setting as opposed to the hyper-reality presented in that world. There is a car chase in the beginning of the film using actual cars so it is unfortunate that, presumably, budget and time restraints forced them to use computer animation. Overall, there is a decided lack of racing for a film about race car drivers.
In the end, Speed Angels is a film that shows the cash grab aspect of filmmaking. With the number of unique and challenging films I enjoy from HK’s industry, I sometimes forget that, like any other film industry, there are simply movies out there to make a buck and viewers like me get shortchanged. Now there is nothing wrong with liking a film like this, but for those looking for more out of a film than pretty faces and pop music, you’d do well to look elsewhere.
You make enjoy Speed Angels if you liked: Tokyo Raiders or Silver Hawk