Wheels on Meals (1984)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2008-05-01
“Wheels on Meals” is a cheerful mess of a movie in which everything works beautifully. It is a buddy movie, a sex comedy and an action flick with a bit of caper/heist action and some great travelogue type shots of Barcelona. There is swordplay—European, not Chinese—gorgeous women, a long lost daughter of nobility in peril and some jaw-dropping fight scenes. There is something for everyone here.

Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao (Thomas and David) are own and run a lunch wagon that was a high tech marvel in the mid-1980s with counters and stools that slide out of the sides, a canopy that pops out of the top and a menu of Chinese and Spanish dishes. Thomas is the waiter, zipping around the plaza where they generally set up shop, using a skateboard to make one round of order taking and another for delivery. David stays in the kitchen making spring rolls and paella. The edge of the plaza is a place of assignation for prostitutes and their customers. This is where we first meet the lovely Sylvia, winningly played by Lola Forner, Miss Spain of 1979. She is a very high priced hooker with a rate about five time that of her competition. She seems to do a good business, though, since she is young, beautiful and self confident. As it happens she doesn’t actually sleep with tricks who pick her up, preferring to rob them of whatever cash they have in addition to her agreed upon fee. She is chased from a hotel by a guy who is quicker on the uptake than most and takes refuge with David, hiding under a counter of the lunch wagon while the police and outraged trick search for her.

Both Thomas and David fall for her, David particularly hard—a bad thing to do with a professional thief. Even though they take pains to hide their most of their money and are embarrassed when she offers to sleep with each of them (consecutively), our heroes awaken the next morning to find Sylvia and their money long gone.

She is also being sought by Moby, a private detective played with jerhi-curled perfection by Sammo Hung. Moby isn’t sure why he is looking for her but does know that his client seems to have a limitless supply of money to keep him looking. Whenever Moby pushes a bit too hard trying to find out his client’s interest in Sylvia or when he tells him he wants to quit he is given another huge stack of bills to keep him working. The three Chinese nationals keep running into each other and ultimately decide they have to work together. A necessary subplot involving David’s father, incarcerated in a mental hospital that resembles a luxury spa, and Sylvia’s mother, also a patient, closes the circle on who is who and what their relationship is.

Which leaves plenty of time for some incredibly well designed and executed fight scenes, particularly the one that is worth the price of admission on its own between Jackie Chan and Benny Urquidez. This is a sensational fight, one that it would be almost impossible to hype. It is protracted and brutal with a great deal of skill, stamina and fitness shown by both men. Punches and kicks are just barely slipped by their target or just slightly pulled by the fighter who threw them.

The three Chinese Opera School grads do their alma mater proud while Urquidez and Robert Vitali are very accomplished martial artists. They play the real tough guys—after half a dozen of Mondale’s thugs have been knocked around by Thomas and David, the characters played by Urquidez and Vitali are deployed and it is clear that they are much better than those they replace. They are also faster and hit harder than Thomas and David, beating them in their first encounter while barely breaking a sweat.

In the end justice is done, all the good people are happy, all the bad people are punished and the audience is left to marvel at a close to perfectly made movie.
Reviewer Score: 10