I settled down for Godspeed not really knowing what to expect. The only image I’d seen was of two men cramped into the boot of a car holding a rubber duck and that was enough to sell it to me. It was therefore a little surprising for it to open with a man being restrained with garden sheers around his throat. Right away the tone seemed to be a shade darker than I was expecting for a film screening at 1pm in the afternoon at the festival. Even now, a week later I’m not sure entirely if I loved it or not but to its credit I’m still thinking about it now.
In Godspeed we meet Na Dow, a young and lazy drug courier who likes to keep things simple. Instead of complex journey planning he just uses a taxi service to take him from one part of Taiwan to another to transport his drugs. We join him being given the hardsell by Xu, an odd but innocent taxi driver, who manages to convince him to use his cab for his trip. What follows is a curious journey across Taiwan as they both learn about each other and become friends while falling into mischief on their roadtrip. There’s a hilariously awkward scene sees them stopping to get some food and waiting in line for what they think is a restaurant only to find out it’s a funeral where they end up getting fleeced for a donation. Another stand out moment occurs when they are trapped in a car boot together with the only light being from a flashing LED rubber duck which leads us to that arresting image above.
This lighter buddy comedy plays against scenes between Na Dow’s boss and a lieutenant which flit between serious where they discuss their lives and trivial day-to-day nonsense. I had a minor quibble with the amount of times the lieutenant uses the f-word, it becomes so over the top, that it started to feel amateurish rather than threatening. Though perhaps one of the finest scenes between them involves a lengthy conversation about removing the plastic wrapping from the lieutenant’s ten year old sofa.
While often great, and a little Tarantino-esque, these two pairings do feel separate especially when Godspeed walks a weird line between violent gangster bloodshed and buddy comedy that doesn’t always work. The scenes featuring Xu and Na Dow are mostly wonderful, humourous and poignant which makes for great viewing but the gangster scenes, which are also sometimes funny, are just a little too dark and violent to balance against them. This tonal juxtaposition is something we often see in Asian films but it doesn’t gel well here, coming across like they spliced two different films together.