Actor Anthony Wong Chau-Sang returns to the festival, at least in cellulloid form, for Soi Cheang’s car chase thriller, Motorway. Wong plays an older cop who mentors a younger one, played by Shawn Yue, in driving like a mad man.
Wong has played a lot of experienced detectives and slick older Triad brothers in the last decade or so. He’s acted in almost two hundred films and directed two. He’s played in uncountable movies either directed by Johnnie To or produced by To’s production company, Milkyway, which produced Motorway. But he had an earlier career, playing psychopathic killers, weasely betrayers and just plain creepy guys. He got his start in Category III films, Hong Kong’s version of NC-17 or X movies with graphic nudity, sex and violence.
Wong won best actor at the 1993 Hong Kong Film Awards for his portrayal of Wong Chi-Hang.
He was the weaselly, traitorous friend of Chow Yun-Fat’s Jeff in Ringo Lam’s Full Contact (1992). (Please note the excellent flamboyance of Simon Yam Tat-Wah). He played a psychopathic Triad boss in John Woo’s Hard-boiled (1992) was an unstoppable warrior thing in Johnnie To’s The Heroic Trio and he made a clear plastic raincoat just plain icky in Benny Chan/Daniel Lee Yan-Kong’s Black Mask (1996), costarring Jet Li and Lau Ching-Wan.
Then, in the late 90s, Wong started what almost seems like a second career of playing cool cops and gangsters. For example, Beast Cops(1998).
In Johnny To’s The Mission, Wong plays a Triad brother who comes out of retirement to protect his former boss. But it’s the character, the acting and the style that make The Mission so satisfying.
In Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs (2002) (remade by Martin Scorsese as The Departed), the shocking death of his character, Inspector Wong, influenced a whole slew of filmmakers who added similar deaths to their movies.
Incidentally, Wong’s co-star in Motorway, Shawn Yue, also appears in Infernal Affairs.
And Wong returned in Johnnie To’s Exiled (2006)–nod to Sam Peckinpah’s Westerns, allegory of the relationship between Wong’s birthplace, Macau, and Mainland China–and sequel to The Mission in cast, if not in story. While it seems like just a fun action movie in the West, Exiled was banned in China for its implicit comparison of the Chinese government and a new gang moving in–I mean, given a Category III rating for Simon Yam’s dapper Boss Feng making a gang sign while making an agreement to move in on new territory.
Wong also won best supporting actor at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Film Awards for his work in Sylvia Chang’s Princess D (2002) And he probably should’ve gotten an award for mentoring the young and dangerous racers of Initial D (2005).