One Way Only (1981)
Directed by: Danny Lee & Nam Nai-Choi
Danny Lee was the Shaw Brother's player that seemed destined to wander endlessly between bit acting or being part of a pursuit to make him a star at being something... anything in cinema. Whether it was in in straight fare such as River Of Fury or acting in cult excess such as Bruce Lee And I, The Mighty Peking Man and The Super Inframan, when being allowed to take on more controlling reigns on One Way Only, accompanying him was another who came to be a cult favourite. Nam Nai-Choi had acted as a cinematographer on films like The Avenging Eagle (1*) and although a fair distance away from memorable status as director of hokey fare in the form of The Seventh Curse and crushing exploitation named Her Vengeance, under the Shaw Brother's banner both had their initial chance to find their footing and voices. Would it represent them calling out to see what of the holler bounced back? May take several movies even but ignoring all lame attempts by Celestial to sell the movie as an Hong Kong Easy Rider, One Way Only is bits and pieces strung together. And it's not clearing the mark of being acknowledged as a feature.
Plot is of pretty much no importance here unless writer Titus Ho (who directed Red Spell Spells Red, a movie that didn't need a script) thinks a theme written, no matter quality, will create a sweeping dramatic tale. However there's so little explored and what little actually is, still feels unexplored in the end, all with Robert Mak's (Martial Club) Chang at center. Acting like a stiff board whether in moping, naive, ignorant or cocky mode, this character is green and often takes wrong turns through his own choices and of course due to the society atmos around him. Struggling to support his family that has a pretty vile mother at center that will literally abandon you if greener pastures are ahead, the choice is the street but the central, more grounded choice, seems to be Chang's gig as an apprentice at a bike repair shop where he's under the guidance of Master Cai (co-director Danny Lee). Although assured and occasionally warm in the acting department, Lee can't co-steer this quite common but crucial plot point into something finalized as the student betrays and deceives without an emotional backlash that makes sense.
Directors Lee and Nam may take the camera to the gritty street but One Way Only still can't come alive and even if it could, it's buried under too much elements featured but not developed. See the original poster that seems to promise something light or ANYTHING featuring Robert Mak and newcomer Tai Liang-Chun. Nope, this never goes anywhere and although the cap of their story develops Chang's easily surfaced bitterness, all's still painfully ignored. Yes, the flick is screaming to the extent that obviously it becomes a social commentary where the balance has to be struck by the police whether to punish biker punks or be constructive in leading them out of trouble. But not even Wan Chi-Keung's traffic cop that has a personal grudge towards them punks seems to matter in the whole scheme of things. Yes, a resemblance of trying to close the circle can be evident during the poor finale (also in terms of continuity) but not for a second is it convincing dramatically or logically.
Parental issues, gang rivalry whether it's on the racing track or when flirting with criminal activity, One Way Only does have it all but it is brainstorming ideas thought of as well-honed dramatic instinct and that makes the entire package sink. Strangely enough directors Danny Lee and Nam Nai-Choi leave us with quite an excellent little final sequence that leaves the viewer to interpret the whereabouts in the development these racing youths are at but is it part of a belief by the directing duo that just by featuring it, you're super-great? At often times in all other scenes it feels like it but it's in reality clueless handling by new filmmakers. They would find their voice and place in different genres often but One Way Only isn't required viewing just to see what signs are here. Because there are none.
IVL presents the film in an aspect ratio 1.82:1 approximately, with anamorphic enhancement. Although tacking on the old (and therefore inaccurate for a movie made in 1981) Shaw Scope logo in 2.35:1 at the beginning, we are the rest of the way given the original aspect ratio. At times grainy and a little dull colour-wise, most of the remastered print is of good quality, looking very natural throughout.
The Cantonese (with some English popping up) Dolby Digital 2.0 is actually not mono but a surround encoded track but it only occasionally uses front speakers for ambience. There are no signs of added effects and it all sounds clear. A Mandarin 2.0 option is also included.
The English subtitles are well-worded throughout and stumble very little upon grammar faults. Other options are Traditional Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia.
Standard extras-package from IVL/Celestial turns up, starting with newly created trailers for One Way Only, Danger Has Two Faces, Kidnap, The Delinquent and Challenge Of The Gamesters. Movie Information-section contains 10 Movie Stills, an image of the original poster, production notes that as per usual is just the synopsis and finishing is Biography & Selected Filmography with sparse bios of Danny Lee, Robert Mak and Tai Liang-Chun. Sadly none for co-director Nam Nai-Choi.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson