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巡城馬 (1982)
Postman Strikes Back

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 06/21/2008
Summary: Solid Entertainment

Postman Strikes Back [1982] is an early Ronnie Yu film that showcases the young director's talent and verve. He manages to make a weak script interesting with a slick cast that features a baby-faced Chow Yun-Fat. This is worth checking out for the ice-skating sequence alone. I'd log this under the Solid Entertainment heading.

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Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 05/02/2007
Summary: "One must have skills to travel the world" -- Fu Jun

Many of Hong Kong films have a backdrop of historical intrigue in the Qing Dynasty (circa 1644 to 1911). Golden Harvest’s The Postman Strikes Back takes place a few years after this period in 1913 just after the establishment of the Republic of China with Yuan Shikai and the Northern Warlords fighting Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. The historical aspects behind this is quite fascinating (though only mentioned a little in this film) because Sun was originally elected the first Provincial president after the Qing Dynasty and then helped get Yuan elected as First President of the China Republic, was most likely coerced into doing this and later would rebel against this (Sun would go to Japan shortly after the failed coup and Yuan would die a few years later in 1916.) Back to the story: bandit Zhao Long holds the northern mountain pass named Laoma that is of great use to Yuan militarily and sends envoy Hu (Eddy Ko Hung) to persuade Zhao to side with Yuan.

Hu enlists the help of a courier named Ma (Leung Kar-Yan from Drunken Dragon) a stoic no-nonsense man whose own job is fraught with little money, unappreciative little bastards who do not appreciate the melted chocolate he has brought them and the fact that he knows his living is in jeopardy as transportation like the railroads become more commonplace. Even then he was reluctant to help Hu until his troublemaker friend Yao Jie (Yuen Yat-Choh) decided (or was it another reason …) to employee himself under Hu. Now there is a little confusion on why he eventually took this job. Ma was confronted earlier by his sister Guihwa (Cherie Chung Cho-Hung) who had told him that father sold her 15-year old sister to Shanghai and needed money to get her back. Unfortunately this plot angle did not go anywhere (several story lines are mentioned in the film without resolution or sometimes without even being alluded to again like this one and Ma’s career demise).

For 300 taels of gold per person, four cases of an unknown matter need to be delivered to Zhao Long before his birthday of December 20th. If anything gets compromised they are ordered to blow up the contents and to not look at them. Hu hired Fu Jun to join the group -- a cigarette smoking, scarf wearing gambler (reminds me a little of Tatsuya Nakadai in Yojimbo) who has baggage of his own -- played by a skinny Chow Yun-Fat in an early movie role. Joining Ma are friend Bu (played by great character actor Fan Mei-Sheng) a man who is an expert with explosives, Ma’s sister Guihwa, and Southern rebel Li Fu whom they save later in the trip and possibly has eyes for Fu Jun (another dissipated angle). They all band together to deliver the goods or perish trying. Several of them would choose the latter.

Several negative aspects hurt an otherwise interesting film. There are too many loose ends, disappearing characters and conflicting storylines with the narrative. This could have been because of the use of four writers including the director Ronny Yu for the script. There is also too much exposition that slows the middle of the story without any progressing of the story. Sometimes Leung Kar-Yan would be too wooden in his acting approach though sometimes his austere nature was appropriate. The only problem I had with the filming was with the night scenes because they are appear murky probably because they are filmed on location and at night.

However, I think there are enough positives to make this an enjoyable movie. The cinematography is excellent and the use of the camera was ingenious in many scenes of a very cold Korean landscape (of course if you notice this then maybe the adventure was stagnant). Ronny Yu’s (Fearless, The Bride With White Hair, Freddy vs. Jason) direction is quite good and consistently chooses interesting shooting techniques with hand-held cameras in many exterior shots. Eddy Ko Hung’s is excellent as the villain. Ideas were impressive from the ice-skating bandits to Fu Jun’s wrist bow to exploding rats. The fight scenes are interesting if a bit short with Chow fighting two bandits at once with one standing on a platform attached to the back of his partner and an excellent finale with the unmasked ninja fighting the protagonist Ma. The penultimate action sequence with Fan Mei-Sheng is probably the best scene in the film with a Ramboesque and Wild Bunch feeling to it. Ultimately though, the cohesion of all the elements is lacking and a tighter script and faster pacing could have made this a splendorous film. Though the movie may not be sublime at least you get to see an exploding ninja and Chow Yun Fat in a non-starring role attempt Kung Fu with his aggressive scarf-style. You may also learn that a compass can save your life against underground enemies.

The DVD copy I have is the Fortune Star/Fox release. It has a good transfer and unlike the earlier releases from this label it does not have dubtitles. There are really no extras except trailers which is normal for the bare-bone releases of Fortune Star/Fox. Of an interesting note here is what Bey Logan of Dragon Dynasty has to say about this film and its Fox release: “I hope one day we can do Postman Strikes Back justice on a future DVD re-issue. … The Fox US edition, though technically decent, didn’t have much in the way of extras.” Of course, extras would be nice though I do not see Dragon Dynasty doing a better job of a transfer.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 03/08/2006
Summary: going postal...

entertaining film following a postman and friends as they make a journey to deliver some mysterious boxes to a rebel leader. all in all, it's pretty good stuff, with some nice set pieces, lots of nice scenery and some ninja action.

enjoyable stuff.

Reviewed by: Frank Lakatos
Date: 02/10/2006
Summary: This is a stylistic horror movie..

A Korean coproduction, this is one of the most different and difficult movies that the stars and Golden Harvest has had to shoot. They have taken an off kilter script and hired an effective director Ronny Yu to shoot in the icy wilderness in Korea. Imagine how many technical problems they had with the cmeras and equipment freezing. Still, in the worst of conditions, Yu is able to creatively oddify this movie, with style and power. Ronny Yu shoot some beautiful Yuen Woo Ping choreographed scenes of Leung Kar Yan doing high impact powerful side kicks, and music edit Tang Siu Lam loads this movie full of chase scores that were used in Taiwanese movie, scores that were unused for many years, and creates a very creepy and effective feel and style. Many Korean actors seen in those Dragon Lee movies make appearances, including "Jaguar Lee" Lam Ja Ho and Kwon Il Su, who play a piggy back kung fu team who ambush Chow Yun Fat(what's the chance that the two Koreans would ever meet each Chow!), the beautiful Kuk Jeong Suk plays a spy, and Jang Il Do plays the manchu general. Then we have Eddie Ko Hung playing the ninja and doing a third rematch with Leung Kar Yan in a disturbing and effective final fight in a Korean forest. Don't watch this movie as a Hong Kong kung fu movie. This is a stylistic horror movie, that uses stylish camera shots, an unpredictable pacing, and contrasts. A great and succesful experiment and experience in Ronny Yu's list of effective movies. Highly recommended. 5/5

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/26/2005

Chow Yun-Fat may now be one of Asia's (and some would say the world's) biggest stars, but his road to movie stardom was a hard one. It may surprise many new Chow fans that his nickname early in his movie career was "box-office poison." The Postman Fights Back is typical of many Chow's early roles. While it is overall a good film, Chow looks and feels out of place and hurts the movie somewhat by his presence. The story casts Chow as a mysterious mercenary hired by Eddy Ko Hung to assist courier Leung Kar Yan deliver a package to a warlord. The film as a whole moves well (though it wastes time in a unresolved plot point about Leung contemplating the end of his career) and there are some good fight scenes, such as one where the heroes must take on a group of ninjas on a frozen lake. Director Ronny Yu's (The Bride with White Hair) sense of suspense shows throughout the movie as well, and adds a nice touch not present in other movies of the genre.

Besides Cherie Chung's character, which amounts to pretty window dressing, the movie's weak point, sorry to say, is Chow. He doesn't look to be into the character and delivers his lines without any passion. It's hard to believe by looking at this role that this would be the actor who would revolutionize ideas of what an action actor should be just as few years later with his bravura performance in John Woo's A Better Tomorrow. Action-wise, Chow also falls flat. Though he sometimes uses a cool wrist crossbow, most of the time he fights using his scarf and looks just plain silly.

If you're going into this film expecting Chow to bust out some Crouching Tiger-style flying kung fu, you'll be disappointed. But if you just want to watch a good action movie, you could do a lot worse than this.

[review from]

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 08/27/2005
Summary: Could have been a contender

A disparate and mismatched group of men and women, each with different motives, undertake a journey to deliver the contents of four locked boxes to a warlord/bandit who controls a strategic mountain pass coveted by both sides in a raging civil war. The group is lead by a professional courier, a strong, silent type who is quick and effective with his fists and feet. The courier was recruited by a thief with a strong connection to him. The third member of the team is a miner—an explosives expert who carries sticks of dynamite in is waistband and who drinks a lot. They are paid in bars of gold, part when they take the packages, part when they deliver. Their employer is a mysterious type who forces them to take on an unneeded fourth person, an urban and urbane individual who does not fit in with the rest of them. Two women make up the rest of the team. One simply shows up and won’t leave, hoping to convince the courier to help her get to Shanghai to rescue her sister. The other is saved from the clutches of bandits on horseback who want to kidnap her and steal the precious boxes.

The group is under surveillance from the moment they leave the city walls. Mounted cavalry, companies of spear wielding infantry, black-hooded ninjas and even soldiers on ice skates attack them—they have to fight their way to their objective, trudging across snow and ice while fending off assaults from implacable enemies. There are some casualties along the way and some odd alliances form—the “brutal” miner Bu and the “effete” cosmopolitan Fu Jun (Fan Mei Sheng and Chow Yun Fat) grow to respect each other and even make plans to head south together after they get paid. Additionally Fu Jun and Guifa (Cherie Chung) are becoming more than just friends.

But not everything is as it seems, of course. While the goods in the locked boxes are important and must be delivered, the group is also a target for forces allied with Sun Yat Sen. They are badly outnumbered in the north, so the attacks on the courier leave them open for ambush by the armies allied with President Yaun whose ambition has no bounds. Danger increases as they get closer to their goal and the steady attacks begin to take a toll on the group. When everything is finally delivered the courier and Bu are horrified—they have placed a 1910 version of a Weapon of Mass Destruction in the hands of a vicious murderer.

This could have been an exciting movie. It has a terrific cast and was produced by Yuen Woo Ping. Some of the fights are realistic and brutal, while others showcase some of the shortcomings of, among others, Chow as a martial artist. However it drags very badly. It runs a bit less than ninety minutes but feels much longer. Ronny Yu and his cinematographers (THREE are credited!) frame a lot of lovely shots, using both close-ups and panoramic views of the winter countryside. So lovely, apparently, that the editor wasn’t able to trim them. There are a lot of lingering glances and slow pans. The preparations for the journey are so deliberate and are shown is such detail that they might as well be happening in real time. We find out too much about some characters, including a lot of information that is never referred to again and not enough about others.

We get to see Chow Yun Fat and Cherie Chung in supporting roles early in their careers, which is one of the reasons to see this movie. Another is the superb Fan Mei Sheng doing what he does best—stealing scenes. Eddy Ko is a terrific villain—he rings all the changes in the bad guy repertoire. He skulks, sneers, lies, betrays and murders with the panache of someone who enjoys his work. But given the star power assembled and (apparently) the large budget, some good performances are not enough.

Not recommended, other than for stone fans of the actors.

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 11/22/2003
Summary: Plotless movie with unusually creative fighting

I must say this movie did suprise me. The simple plot of deliverying a package to someone else is all there is to the story.

What grabbed my attention is the fight scenes. They are some of the most original fights i have seen in a long time. The assassins after Chow Yun Fat, the use of the mice, the suprisingly entertaining last fight scene. This is what keeps the movie going!!

But the problem is that when there is no fighting you couldn't care less!! The talk is only there to fill in time i think.

Leung Kar yan shows no emotions, Chow yun fat plays his snobby character well. Eddy Ko always seem to play the bad guy well.

Watch it for the fight scenes, there is not much of a story so get the fast forward button ready!!

Just for the action:


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 01/28/2003

I liked the beginning and I liked the end; what I didn't like is the middle part, which is rather a drag. If this movie didn't have 3 of my favorite actors to begin with--Liang Jia Ren, Zhong Chu Hong and Eddy Ko--it would have been difficult to get through. Some basic action is included, but this isn't a kung fu movie.


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/24/2002
Summary: Average

There is enough reveiws to get an idea of the story if you have never seen it, but personally I wouldn't bother watching it again. I've seen it several times over the years, but it never got any better to me.

Rating: 2/5

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 01/13/2002
Summary: Muddled, occasionally interesting

This is a Western transposed to the East. The theme may be the struggle between forces loyal to Yuan Shi Kai and Sun Yat Sen, but it's all horses, a gang of people who don't seem to like each other, getting your horses stolen, delivering a gift over a long distance, sitting around the campfire etc....

I found it hard to get involved with this one. The characters are a pretty unengaging lot, and I couldn't have cared less what happened to Chow and Cherie, which is really saying something ! The one exception was that great old fatty, Fan Mei Sheng, as they feisty explosives expert.

The photography's pretty good, and the scene chages from desert to snowy mountains look pretty good.

There are some competent fight scenes which seem to have been spliced in at random.

The whole thing doesn't really hang together very well, and I don't think the great talents on the screen were utilized very well.

Only if you're bored or a big fan of one of the stars.

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: hellboy
Date: 08/30/2000

Chow Yun-Fat demonstrates to the audience he knows kung-fu, or at least can be made to look like he does. Overall a nice period drama with some unexpected turns. Some well choreographed fights especially the fight between Chow and the two bounty hunters that employ weird "back-to-back" kung-fu.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Turn-of-the-century action film shot entirely in Korea.

[Reviewed by Anonymous]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

CYF is in the supporting cast, along with Cherie Chung. The foucs is on Lung Kai-Lun, but CYF and Cherie Chung steal the spotlight. If you enjoy old Kung Fu movies, I will recomend this one.

[Reviewed by Anonymous]