Jackie Chan,Sammo Hung,Yuen Biao,Lola Forner Benny''The Jet'' Urquidez,Keith Vitali
Directed by : Sammo Hung
Wheels On Meals was one of just three movies which bought together the ‘3 Brothers’ - action superstar Jackie Chan, exceptional physical performer Yuen Biao and the venerated Big Brother, Sammo Hung (a trio much-loved in HK, and subsequently worldwide). Sprinkle in the inspired European setting of Barcelona, add a Caucasian former beauty queen with actual acting ability in Lola Forner, and the unbeaten fight legend Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez, and we’ve a practically unmatched example of cross-cultural cinematic harmony.
Cousins Thomas and David (Chan and Biao) are good-hearted Chinese immigrants attempting to carve a business in the mobile food business. They practice martial arts - Chan reluctantly - and have another Chinese friend, the blundering, if not charming ‘Moby’ (Hung).
Moby gains promotion to head a faltering detective agency, which is high in debt and low on cases. A break for the broke, Moby comes in contact with a gentleman wanting a missing person traced - the illegitimate daughter of a former maid once in the service of a rich and respected household. If she is found before another party led by ‘The Count’, a man with designs on the fortune himself, she in line for a mighty inheritance, and Moby an enormous salary.
As Moby makes enquiries of the whereabouts of Sylvia in smoky speakeasies, and the alleys and seedier regions of Barcelona, David and Thomas find themselves accidentally acquainted with Moby’s target. Her mother, the former maid, is a resident at the mental hospital, and romancing a fellow patient in David’s father. Cue cameos from other eccentric but playful patients in the shape of Richard Ng (now Woo) and John Shum, and the unique family-feel experience of a Sammo Hung movie starts to simmer.
Sylvia, obviously lovely and bedazzling to the cousins, is however an accomplished thief and a professional seductress who robs them, steals their Spanish gigolo of a neighbour’s car and crashes into Moby. She purloins his wallet, but the bumbling detective manages to trace her as she’s about to be kidnapped by The Counts henchmen. She manages to escape, and disappears until Moby works out her link to his friends. Moby enlists the help of his two Chinese brothers in tracing the beautiful inheritress…
Fully utilising the beauty of Spain’s capital, we’re treated to striking shots of a shimmering Barcelona, and vast pans of the sun-dappled cathedral and market square. These contrast capably with scenes set in Spain’s sewers and sparse countryside. Hung took a gamble taking the movie overseas, and he makes quite wonderful use of the sweeping roads for his staple car-cum-food-van-chase, as well as giving equal screen time to his Caucasian counterparts - although they are expectedly at odds with the Chinese characters who’re shown as fastidious and much more resourceful.
Inspired fight scenes pepper the movie. Hung makes great use of a vast market square to engineer an opening fight between Chan, Biao and a gang of petty motorcycle thugs whose anti-social revving is damaging their business. A huge crowd watches on as two thugs traveling at speed are drop-kicked from their bikes.
A high speed food van chase adds the expected dash of comedic velocity that is the trademark of ‘3 Brothers’ movies, as well as those aforementioned cameos from stalwarts of HK cinema.
The finale is set in a grand castle where the lovely Sylvia, since rediscovered and employed by the cousins as a waitress at the food van, and her quite mad mother are being held by The Count. At times, it resembles a Super Mario-style storyline, with each ‘brother’ trying different routes into the castle to save the ornately costumed ‘Princess’. Chan climbs a wall with sticks, while Biao abseils into trouble with some American baseball playing henchmen.
Our final fight reel sees Chan take on Urquidez in a dazzling display of skills that is seen by some fanatics as the greatest end fight scene in ‘80s cinema. His reluctance in training makes Chan sloppy and lacking in stamina, so he treats the bout as a training session to unsettle his bigger and stronger opponent. Hung chips in with some cumbersome weapon-wielding set to Chinese opera beats, while Biao does some playful but effective table acrobatics to take on Vitali.
Hung gives perhaps too much time over to the car chase, as well forcing in too many comedy set-pieces set in the hospital grounds and wine bar - Hung answers a phone, giving the lady lots of kisses and promises to see her later before passing it on to the bartender who’d been ribbing him earlier on and saying “your wife.”
These small deviance's are tempered by the proficient fight editing and runaway enjoyment of the movie. This style of HK comedy is sadly wanting today.
One of the biggest martial arts movies to be produced outside of HK, Meals On Wheels pledges snappy laughs, polished fight scenes and, of course, fun.