Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Wheels on Meals (Sammo Hung, 1984)

Despite its mind-bogglingly goofy title, this 1984 comedy-adventure from longtime Chan cohort Hung works to good effect, never allowing itself to become too bogged down in martial arts set pieces or the long-winded expositional scenes that have cluttered up so many otherwise fine HK offerings of late. And of the four “name” directors working in HK today -- Hung, Chan, John Woo, and Tsui Hark -- Hung is the most accessible to Western audiences in terms of being able to follow what's going on up on the screen. Subtitles, whether they're syntactically accurate or not, are almost irrelevant here. Set in a large Spanish city (maybe Madrid, maybe Barcelona; where exactly is never revealed), Chan and Biao are making ends meet by running a stylized fast-food cantina out of an obscenely garish minivan under the moniker “Everybody's Kitchen.” While Yuen cooks the spring rolls, Chan skateboards around the plaza taking orders and mugging to the camera (up front, let's say this is one of Chan's goonier outings). One evening, while plying their trade in the red light district, they save the life of a beautiful and nimble-fingered pickpocket-cum-call girl (Forner) who at first seems to want to take them for all they're worth. As things turn out, she's on the lam from her father, an evil count (Edelman) who wants to suck her dry of her impending fortune. Chan, Yuen, and their detective pal Hung (looking strangely like an overweight, Asian Michael Jackson circa “Thriller,” jherri-curls and all) join forces against the nefarious count and his band of brawny henchmen in an extended bout of kung fu acrobatics. Hung keeps Wheels on Meals moving at a rollicking pace, with just enough Chan/Yuen/Hung action to keep the fisticuffs fans in their place, but also, more importantly, with a lively and sometimes outlandish sense of humor.--Austin Chronicle

Streaming Link: