The Postman Strikes Back
In this film Chow Yun Fat lives in a HK that has
been nearly destroyed by nuclear war and one day he chances upon a bag
of mail and decides to take the Star Ferry to Kowloon and deliver it -
thus bringing back civilization.
Oh, wrong film. Sorry, in this one he plays
a rugged handsome drifter who chances upon an isolated diner, a sultry
wife (Veronica Yip) and a greasy husband (Ng Man-Tat) and the inevitable
scenario is played out.
Oh damn, it’s not that one either. Actually Chow
Yun Fat is not even the postman in this Western kung-fu flick. Western
in the sense that it reminded me very much of the old Hollywood westerns.
Four men (CYF being one of them) are hired by Eddie Ko to transport a box
with unknown contents across hostile territory. They are attacked constantly
by bandits, bounty hunters and revolutionaries. They cross barren plains
and snow covered vistas. At one point they even do a “circle the wagons”
scenario when they are crossing a frozen lake and surrounded by sword wielding
ninjas on ice skates!
Chow Yun Fat – looking very young and trim – does
some kung fu, but lets just say that it was a good thing that "heroic bloodshed"
came along. He does have a neat wrist projectile weapon that is sneaky
and deadly. I wasn’t really expecting much from this film, but as it goes
along it gets better and better with a lot of action and the tension starts
to grow. There are some really imaginative bits; such as tying dynamite
to the tails of rats and setting them loose in the enemy's compound. Cherie
Chung in her first role tags along with the foursome, but this first of
a number of pairings with CYF has no romance. Ronnie Yu (Bride with White
My rating for this film: 7.0
Reviewed by YTSL
Eighteen years before he played a kung fu master
in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, Chow Yun-Fat appeared in a Ronnie
Yu directed film that contains its share of martial artistic action and
characters who get revealed somewhere along the line to be less innocent
than they initially appeared. Although these two entertaining efforts
surely are on opposite sides of the spectrum with regards to such as the
budgets that their makers had at their disposal, one other similarity that
this often spartan looking production -- which nonetheless can boast of
having quite a few notable names in its crew as well as cast -- does share
with Ang Lee’s celebrated offering is that the individual who has been
lauded as “the God of Actors” -- but was looked upon as “box office poison”
back in 1982 -- does not have as big a part to play in the actually shot-in-South
Korea (as opposed to any of “the three Chinas”) movie as it might be assumed
that he would.
Instead, the titular character of that which is
variously known as “A Postman Fights Back”, “The Postman Fights Back” and
POSTMAN STRIKES BACK comes in the more than capable form of Leung Kar Yan
(AKA “Beardy” to his fans). At the start of the Tony Au art directed
work (that’s set in the turbulent early part of the twentieth century during
which Yuan Shi Kai had risen up to challenge Sun Yat Sen’s administrative
authority), its pragmatic protagonist -- who gets referred to in the English
subtitles as “courier” Ma -- is shown being content to lead a modest plus
honest existence as the deliverer of letters, small packages and messages
for residents of remote Chinese villages who (nevertheless) may have relatives
and contacts in metropolises like Shanghai and Canton. However, first
economic realities, then those with major politics and/or deception seriously
on their minds, intrude and induce him to agree to deliver four medium
sized boxes containing a gift from a powerful personage who had declared
himself the emperor of China to a glorified warlord whose loyalty he was
seeking to win over.
The far from rich Ma meets the acquaintance of
the wealthy looking man who announced that he was willing to pay an unmiserly
300 taels of gold for the successful execution of a job that was not supposed
to take up more than seven days by way of a petty thief type character
named Yao Chai (who gets rather thanklessly played by Yuen Yat Chor).
In turn, Yuan Shi Kai’s emissary -- who identified himself as Hu (and is
suitably given mysterious plus arrogant airs by Eddy Ko) -- introduces
the courier to a gentlemanly individual named Fu Jun and makes a convincing
case for it being beneficial to have Chow Yun-Fat’s POSTMAN STRIKES BACK
character along for what promised to be a hazardous ride on account of
his having “underworld” (i.e., “jiang hu”?) contacts that could be utilized
(should the need arise to do so). What with Hu dramatically stating
that he would prefer that this shipment get blown up than get into the
wrong hands, it (also) made sense for an explosives expert named Bu (essayed
by Fan Mui Sheng) to be added to this delivery team.
Just as the four men are about to set off on their
mission, they get joined by a female villager named Gui Hua (quietly portrayed
by Cherie Chung), who seems to have illogically opted to take a roundabout
as well as potentially dangerous route to the big city where she hoped
to be reunited with a sister who her impoverished father had sold.
Midway in their journey (which does end up being a pretty dangerous one
that involves their being attacked more than once by gun wielding as well
as kung fu fighting individuals), this rather rag-tag five-some run into
a woman who is being pursued by bandits and successfully rescue her from
them. Since Ms. Li (who may have been the one and only Hong Kong
movie role that Guk Ching Suk ever had) claimed to be from the place near
where they are headed, they (temporarily and fairly happily) add her to
their group. After all, they knew so little then about those things
and people that they would have much cause to regret having latterly encountered.
At this juncture in POSTMAN STRIKES BACK, that
which looks to be a transitional piece that admittedly is more of an Old
School kung fu movie than a New Wave production or wire fu work has certainly
not been boring but still seems to have steered along fairly conventional
lines. Soon thereafter though, it gets considerably enlivened by
the kind of imaginative touches that Hong Kong film fans have come to associate
with its credited presenter (but not action director). More specifically,
certain devices, elements and imagery that feature in this offering will
seem familiar to those who have also viewed the Ching Siu Tung helmed “Duel
to the Death”, “A Chinese Ghost Story” I and II (and presumably also III),
and “Swordsman II”. This (re)viewer is additionally willing to wager
that commonalities will be detected between one of this Golden Harvest
production’s female characters and Brigitte Lin’s in the Ching Siu Tung
action directed “Peking Opera Blues” (that, perhaps not entirely coincidentally,
does take place in the same troubled time period as this earlier effort
that also happens to have Cherie Chung in its cast).
My rating for the film: 7.