Leather-clad Michael (Lin Wen-Wei) comes from a prominent family but rides with a badass biker gang, led by the surly, shades-wearing Boss (Kong San). These no-good punks indulge their antisocial whims on the road with a penchant for wild cycle stunts, methane-snorting and outdoor sex with groovy groupies. Aboard a ferry, the boys play toss-a-penny aimed at one biker babe’s ample cleavage. The prize is a quick shag in the public toilet. Clean-cut good guy Guo Jianzhong (Ling Yun), his whiny wife Meijuan (Terry Liu) and cute kid sister Jia Li are en route for a mild weekend of hiking, fishing and boating at the beachfront home of the latter’s boyfriend Siwei (Danny Lee), but fall afoul of these cycle psychos. Going ga-ga over Jia Li in her sexy leather miniskirt, Michael and his biker brethren hassle the townies across their island retreat. They squirt Jianzhong with ketchup, pelt Meijuan with sea anemones, spray-paint their car and trash their holiday home, until an enraged Siwei kicks the crap out of them. The next day, the city folks discover their tires have been slashed and their boat stolen, leaving them stranded, at the mercy of killers on wheels.
Billed as Shaw Brothers’ answer to Easy Rider (1969), Killers on Wheels is actually more of a throwback to the scare-mongering delinquent films of the Fifties and early Sixties. Which makes sense given the Shaws had a more conservative outlook than Dennis Hopper and little sympathy for the counterculture. It is interesting to contrast this lone Hong Kong biker film of note with those genre movies coming out of Japan at the time. Violent Classroom (1976) had ex-boxer turned substitute teacher Yusaku Matsuda turning the tables on teenage bikers, whom he later discovers are manipulated by a corrupt politician. In Detonation! Violent Riders (1975) karate icon Sonny Chiba teams up with a badass but benevolent biker gang. Toei Films made sixteen films in the Delinquent Boss series about fun-loving biker boys that most likely influenced the enduring, and endearing, anime series Bomber Bikers of Shonan (1986).
Despite a confusing moment when Michael blames his abhorrent behaviour on the indifference of rich folks to the plight of the poor, plus the fact that Boss interestingly never partakes in any antisocial action himself and seems just as outraged at his friend’s evil actions, the film makes no attempt at social commentary beyond the obvious. Scripted by staggeringly prolific kung fu film scribe Sze To-On, the action is designed specifically so conservative viewers can cluck disapprovingly whilst vicariously enjoying all the sleaze, violence and nudity. Scarcely a moment goes by without some supporting character bemoaning the wayward morality of modern youth. By comparison, the good guys are clean-living, ovaltine sipping, mahjongg playing squares. Studly Siwei encapsulates the attitude towards the long-haired layabouts when he snaps: “Damn scum. They respect nothing.” Star Danny Lee may well have shared similar opinions. Best known for his starring role in The Killer (1989), he went on to direct a string of reprehensible cop thrillers wherein torture and rape are considered justifiable interrogation techniques.
For the most part the bikers are more annoying than dangerous, but Michael and a handful of thugs cross the line by gang-raping the heroines, leaving one dead and another traumatized. Before then, director Kuei Chi-hung, Shaw’s resident crime, sex and horror specialist, betrays a faint envy for the biker’s carefree lifestyle. He stages a breakneck race to see who gets to bang the bike bunnies in the fast-motion style of a Benny Hill sex comedy, with one luckless road hog mistaking his naked friend for one of the girls (!), two guys failing to satisfy a lusty nymphet, and a scene parodying the poetic courtship in a vintage swordplay flick climaxing as one biker breaks the fourth wall to wink at the audience. Combining the biker flick with the home invasion and vigilante justice genres, Kuei lifts as much from Straw Dogs (1971) as The Wild Angels (1966), as Guo turns his house into a fortress and improvises weapons out of cooking oil, loose wires and whiskey bottles (like any self-respecting Seventies swinger, he keeps a well-stocked liquor cabinet). He eventually rips into the rascals with a handy motorboat rotor, although the film closes with a caption providing the textbook definition of murder as the law sees it. Which either implies the survivors will face serious jail time or is otherwise a plea for lighter sentencing for anyone that slaughters delinquents in self-defence.