Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Saturday, April 22, time 5.25 PM


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Hong Kong comedy legend Michael Hui makes a rare return to film in an unexpected place. Godspeed is the fourth feature film by Chung Mong-hong, the offbeat auteur behind coming-of-age drama The Fourth Portrait and psychological thriller Soul. Godspeed is the director’s return to dark comedy after his debut feature Parking, and for all of its eccentricities, Godspeed also happens to be Chung’s most accessible film.
Na Dow (Taiwanese comedian Na Dow) is a drug mule for gangster Bao (Leon Dai), periodically transporting drugs from Taipei to Brother Tou (Tou Chung-hua) in Tainan. While waiting for a ride on his latest trip, Na Dow is approached by Xu (Michael Hui), a longtime taxi driver who immigrated to Taiwan from Hong Kong over 20 years ago. After some hard bargaining and mild strong-arming, Na Dow agrees to take Xu’s clunker of a taxi for the cross-country trip. Even with Bao and his right-hand man Wu (Matt Wu) watching from a distance, the two men’s journey will not be a smooth one.

At 74 years old and in semi-retirement, Hui gives his best performance in over two decades as the veteran taxi driver. The comedian’s physical form seems like a tired, nearly Charlie Kaufman-esque sad shell of his former self, but his hilariously dry curmudgeon persona still shines through. A brief Cantonese monologue in the middle of the film will no doubt delight fans.
Despite his well-documented difficulties with the Mandarin dialogue, Hui has crafted a character that is a bit slimy but also instantly sympathetic because of how obvious his desperation is. Hui also makes an interesting comic pairing with Na Dow, who plays the more stoic straight man here. Their chemistry is as delightfully unusual as the rest of the film.
Leon Dai’s straight-faced gangster also gets his moment, especially in a Tarantino-esque exchange with Tou about plastic cover on sofas. Dai and Tou’s brief scene together is so good that one might wish Chung would make an entirely separate film about them.

Chung seems to be channeling ‘80s Hong Kong cinema in his own unique way with Godspeed, given the film’s wildly uneven tone. Most of the characters use their own names (a Hong Kong cinema staple), and the script has a go-for-broke mentality that moves the story in refreshingly unexpected directions. Godspeed never stays too long in a single genre – moving from a typical odd-couple road comedy to a violent gangster thriller (an interrogation sequence involving a helmet is especially brutal) and finally a poignant drama about finding a kindred soul in the world. The clash of genres and sparse exposition may alienate some, but Godspeed ultimately rewards open-minded viewers who can value the journey over the destination.
Kevin Ma
Film director: 
Chung Mong-hong
Running time: 


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