Wheels on Meals Blu-ray Review
The best Jackie Chan fight scene of all time?
Wheels on Meals Film Review
The year after their hit work on Project A, the Peking Opera brothers, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung reunite for this memorable martial arts comedy.By 1984, the trio were pretty big in Hong Kong, big enough to have difficulties making a movie locally, leading them to Spain for what proved to be one of their best team-ups. The madcap story was right in their wheelhouse - Chan and Biao play cousins who run a fast food van, getting drawn into a crazy missing persons case which landed in the lap of Hung's inexperienced assistant Private Investigator, when the duo fall for a beautiful pickpocket masquerading as a prostitute, who is actually the illicit heir to a fortune - only she doesn't know it - and thus a target for the next in line to the fortune, who wants her off the map so he can use the money for his criminal enterprise.
None of it really makes a jot of sense, but it's just about enough of a flimsy plot to put the martial arts trio through a succession of outstanding action setpieces, involving trademark practical stunts, fights and insane car chases.
The film is worth watching alone for that final fight
After Chan directed Project A, which co-starred Hung, they traded places here to have Hung behind the camera, allowing Chan the room for some of his absolute best work, from an early training session with Biao to a skirmish with a biker gang, a couple of early messy confrontations with his ultimate nemesis, and then the final assault and one-on-one. Chan was at his most fearless, and the stunts were exquisite, but the real coup here was getting Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez as the lead henchman.
Urquidez is the guy who trained Swayze in Roadhouse (and was one of the thugs), and who was John Cusack's real kickboxing trainer (and fought him in Grosse Pointe Blank), and his pairing opposite Chan was the stuff of legend. His kicks were so fast that they literally blow a row of candles out in the film, and their closing fight scene is up there with some of the classic Bruce Lee face-offs. Aside from the fun antics that occur on the build up - this is less goofy than the Project A flicks, but still packed with physical comedy - there are some memorable moments (not least the various attempts at getting into the fortress, and Hung's swordplay), but the film is worth watching alone for that final fight.
Wheels on Meals Blu-ray PictureEureka, having had some tremendous success remastering Chan's Drunker Master, City Hunter, Project A I & II, and Police Story 1 & 2, and Jet Li's Once Upon a Time in China series, work the same magic on Wheels on Meals, delivering a brand new 2K restoration which makes for a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
Frequently demo, with Eureka knocking another one out of the park
Detail is excellent - this is amidst the best of Eureka's restoration, besting even their 4K restorations on the likes of Drunken Master (perhaps in part due to the age and condition of the source print) to provide a clean, clear and colourful video presentation that retains a near-perfect grain structure (no unruly digital manipulation and ensuing softness here) whilst drawing out every last pixel of texture from beneath. It's tremendous, and really hits its demo stride with the colour scheme, which undoubtedly benefits from the clearly sunny and often lush green Spanish setting. With solid black levels affording a strong foundation (the night assault is perfectly rendered), and some excellent primary pop, it's frequently demo, with Eureka knocking another one out of the park.
Wheels on Meals Blu-ray SoundOn the aural front, even before we get to the technical quality of the track(s), it's worth marvelling at the sheer number of audio options. There's the original Cantonese Mono track, a Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, the Cantonese 2.0 'Alternate Soundtrack', and three dubbed tracks - the Classic Dub in both English mono and 5.1, and the 2006 Dub in 5.1. Of course true fans would stay clear of those last three - except for perhaps the comedy value of watching it with bad dubbing - but even those who elect one of the native tracks will find, as with plenty of Chan's other films - and even Li's (see Once Upon a Time in China III), there's plenty of dialogue in the movie that's dubbed no matter what version you watch, not least because of the number of European cast members in this Spanish-set production.
Delivering the 35 year old flick with aplomb
The obvious choice is the Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, and whilst it feels a little muted in comparison with the original mono, that's largely due to the fact that it has been tempered somewhat and given more balance across a more expansive array, with a more natural (and less tinny) accompanying soundtrack - obviously no less dated - and jam packed with the trademark slap/bam/pow fight noises commensurate with just about every HK martial arts production from this era. Flick around the other tracks to get a taste for them, but it's this one which you should stick with, doing a very good job delivering the 35 year old flick with aplomb, and earning bonus points just for the sheer choice of no less than six different tracks!
Wheels on Meals Blu-ray ExtrasEureka releases, whilst boasting remastered video and audio, are also known for their extra features
Eureka releases, whilst boasting remastered video and audio, are also known for their impressive extra features, and this one is no exception, affording a seemingly nominal 'Interview' section on the extras menu which actually leads to a whole slew of options, including two interviews with Hung, one with Biao, one with Urquidez, one with another martial arts fighter who played a villain in the film, Keith Vitali and also one with Stanley Tong. If that wasn't enough, there are also a number of outtakes, including the Alternate Japanese Release Credits (they went nuts for Jackie Chan outtakes in Japan so the film, called Spartan X there and released with a video-game tie-in, had a much longer set of outtakes).
Wheels on Meals Blu-ray VerdictThis is an absolute must-have to add to the numerous previous Eureka releases that should already be in any HK martial arts fan's collection
Often (and rightly) regarded as one of Jackie Chan's best films, and certainly including one of the greatest fight sequences of all time, Sammo Hung's Wheels on Meals is a hugely fun, thoroughly imaginative and frequently action packed affair. The level of choreography is so good that you have to watch the outtakes to realise just how much work must have gone into such simple things as delivering food on a skateboard, let alone the closing fights.
Eureka do another top job delivering a Chan classic with an excellent 2K remaster (arguably one of their best), as well as a slew of impressive audio options, and a number of great, largely interview-based, extras. This is an absolute must-have to add to the numerous previous Eureka releases (not least Chan's seminal Police Story and Project A films) that should already be in any HK martial arts fan's collection. Recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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