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  Wheels on Meals Food Fight
Year: 1984
Director: Sammo Hung
Stars: Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Lola Forner, Benny Urquidez, Keith Vitali, Herb Edelman, Susanna Sentis, Richard Ng, John Sham, Wu Ma
Genre: Comedy, Action, Thriller, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: The alarm clock rings and another day begins for Thomas (Jackie Chan) and David (Yuen Biao), two Chinese cousins who run their own fast food van in Spain. After a bout of martial arts training to get the day off to a good start, they are about to leave their apartment after breakfast when their Italian neighbour stops them. He's being threatened by his wife because he's been out all night with his mistress and Thomas and David decide to avoid any trouble by exiting their home by the balcony. Thomas does this with ease, but David has the obstacle of the awning used to break his fall being pulled back by the owner of the shop below, resulting in a painful landing. It's going to be an eventful day for the duo, but they just don't know it yet...

Wheels on Meals, or Kwai Tsan Tseh to give the film its original title, was so called, legend has it, because its studio Golden Harvest had suffered flops with English names beginning with "M" for their films, so to take no chances this nonsensical solution was arrived at. Scripted by Antonio Llorens and Edward Tang, it took its three Hong Kong stars (director Sammo Hung also appears) and transplanted them to sunny Spain, giving this a pleasingly international feel, even if it is strange to see that so many Spaniards speak fluent Cantonese.

Not that the movement of their lips match the words, but there you go. Another distinctive thing about Wheels on Meals is that it's eighties through and through, which may not have made it stand out at the time but adds a nicely nostalgic air to it for those who caught it nearer the time it was released. And so it is that there are women wearing legwarmers, Jackie and Yuen arseing about on skateboards (okay, maybe that was more a seventies phenomenon), and their van has an onboard computer to open the doors to save its owners the trouble of opening for business manually.

Although packed with incident, not a lot of plot is apparent for at least the first half hour. Mainly it's the comedy that is concentrated on, with the accidental soaking of a policeman when washing the van, or Sammo as Moby, an inept detective finally getting a missing persons case all to himself to work on. In fact, you'd hardly know that Moby and Thomas and David were aware of each other for a substantial part of the movie. And there's a notable lack of martial arts as well, as if Sammo and his colleagues wanted to emphasise the humour, perhaps unwittingly at the expense of the action.

That said, the jokes aren't too bad, so it's a relatively painless experience. The storyline, such as it is, has Thomas and David getting mixed up with a glamorous pickpocket (former Miss Spain Lola Forner) who they both grow undeniably attracted to, but whose mother has something to do with David's father who is currently residing in a mental hospital (why are there so many Chinese in that establishment? Living in Spain must be pretty hard for those of that nationality). The fighting, when it arrives, is excellent thanks to Jackie battling against the formidable Benny Urquidez, who genuinely looks as if he could break our hero into little pieces, but as this does show up so late in the film some viewers could leave unsatisfied if they don't enjoy the gags. Wheels on Meals may not be the very best of this acting trio, but that's no strong criticism.

[The two disc Hong Kong Legends DVD features a commentary with the enthusiastic Bey Logan, interviews, outtakes, trailers and more.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Sammo Hung  (1952 - )

Hong Kong born actor, producer and director and one of the best known figures in Hong Kong cinema. Hung's large frame belies a formidable martial arts ability, and he's best known for his collaborations with Jackie Chan during the 1980s and more recently for his US TV show Martial Law.

Hung's acting career began at the age of 12 but it was Enter the Dragon that gave him his first high profile role. He starred in a continuous stream of kung fu movies throughout the seventies, and made his directing debut in 1977 with Iron-Fisted Monk. A series of now-classic martial arts comedies followed, all directed by and starring Sammo - Warriors Two, Encounters of the Spooky Kind, Prodigal Son, My Lucky Stars, Pedicab Driver. But his best loved pictures are those in which he appeared alongside Jackie Chan, including Project A, Wheels on Meals, Dragons Forever and My Lucky Stars.

 
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