The Legend of Speed  (1999, 1999)

A review of the Universe Lasser DVD.

Just as ‘Young and Dangerous’ (part one and two and three and four and five and six) is ‘Knockaround Guys’-Hong Kong style, ‘The Legend of Speed’ is like ‘The Fast and the Furious’... Hong Kong style.  It’s hip, sleek and lots of fun.  This is actually a sequel to ‘Full Throttle’, which stars Andy Lau (who is in ‘God of Gamblers’ (long way to go just for the link, isn’t it?), ‘Cat and Mouse’ and literally more than 100 other movies), and which I’d be really surprised if I found (well, I saw this one, didn’t I, so maybe I’ll be lucky again... actually I did find it, though not on DVD, and it was a nice movie for 110 minutes).  It’s the story of Brother Sky, a street-racing legend, and the trouble, loss and redemption he goes through.

‘The Fast and the Furious’ was about the relationship between Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, with racing as a backdrop.  ‘The Legend of Speed’ is along the same lines; it’s about Ekin Cheng (Sky) and his friends, one of which is the lovely Cecilia Cheung (both were in ‘The Legend of Zu’ and ‘Tokyo Raiders’ also).  Again, like ‘The Fast and the Furious’ the story deals with loyalty and friendship.  The movie mixes in some comedy with drama, and obviously racing.  There aren’t as many racing scenes as in ‘The Fast and the Furious’ but the storyline is just as interesting, if not more so.  The drama gets kind of heavy at times, but it’s well done so it’s never really a problem.  The plot is kind of predictable at times, but that doesn’t matter either.  Like in ‘The Fast and the Furious’, the characters are real, so even if the storyline is kind of seen, the movie is still enjoyable to watch.

I can’t verify this for sure, but it seems to me that ‘The Fast and the Furious’ took some major inspiration from this movie.  I know it was based on the article ‘Racer X’, but some of the shots were just too close to be coincidental.  The camera moving along the front of the cars at the starting line, and the NOS race shots are really close to one another.

The racing sequences in this movie are really nice.  They’re intense, and full of energy.  The fast techno music helps add that needed intensity to the screen.  The director decided to add a fun red tracer to Ekin’s car at times.  Just a neat touch.

In any case, director Andrew Lau (‘Infernal Affairs’, ‘Best of the Best’, ‘The Flock’) still keeps up with his mixing of pop culture; whereas ‘Young and Dangerous’ mixed in comic books, this one mixes in video games with the movie.  There are some pretty neat point of view shots (the NOS shots for one), the power slides you see in video game ads are fun to watch in here, and at one point you see the street course on the screen while the cars are racing, and their position on the course.  It just another imaginative touch that isn’t seen in Hollywood movies.

This is a very good movie that works everywhere it tries.  The story may be seen in advance, but the movie is still well done, and is still very enjoyable.  It has great energy and enthusiasm.  Manfred Wong (the sreenwriter/producer) and Andrew Lau have another winner here.  I have yet to see a movie by these guys that I haven’t enjoyed.

The trailer runs 160 seconds, but the oddest thing is that the entire first minute is devoted to production company stuff.  One whole minute is a long time for that kind of thing.  It’s a good trailer though, expressing the mood and style of the movie perfectly.  If the trailer interests you, you should like the movie.

Star Files
Ekin Cheng, Cecilia Cheung, Simon Yam, Kelly Lam, and Moses Chan all have filmographies.  The problem is that they’re all in Chinese, so I can’t read anything.

I can just imagine this movie in surround.  With two speakers, there was pretty good movement.  I’m sure the cars whizzing by would be much more impressive with a subwoofer, but I’ll have to make that decision after the acquisition of a new system.  Sometimes the kicking score was too loud, so that the dialogue couldn’t be clearly heard.  That isn’t much of a problem for me, because the subtitles were what I was relying on for comprehension of what was happening.  Sometimes, though, I found the music wasn’t loud enough, which took away some of the intensity and the energy of the scene.  That might be due to an artistic decision by the director more than the lack of a good sound system, though, but I still find it a problem.

1.85:1 (I think, says letterboxed at 1.75:1, which is really weird aspect ratio) letterbox.  Even though it’s not anamorphic, it’s still a good transfer.  The print might not have been the best in the world, so some dust and other such particles appear here and there.  The colours are very nice, though – vivid and separate enough not to complain too much.  I didn’t notice much grain, but I was more captivated by the movie than the picture.

put up sometime in November 2002