Wheels on Meals (Eureka Classics) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (14th March 2019).
The Film

Thomas (Drunken Master's Jackie Chan) and his cousin David (Project A's Yuen Biao) are living in Barcelona running a food truck in the absence of David's father Chen (Winners & Sinners' Paul Chang Chung) who suffered a nervous breakdown and is convalescing at a nearby asylum. Thomas and David are struck by Chen's change in attitude about wanting David to settle down with a girl, the ethnicity of which no longer matters so long as he is happy; that is, until they discover that he is having a romance with fellow patient Gloria (Susana Sentís). Both young men become taken with Gloria's daughter Sylvia (Scalps' Lola Forner) until they discover her in the red light district where they do a lucrative dinner shift. Against Thomas' disapproval, David hides Sylvia when she is accused of stealing a client's wallet, and his cynicism is seemingly borne out when they discover the next morning that Sylvia has not only stolen their neighbor's (Hell of the Living Dead's Josep Lluís Fonoll) car but also their savings. Clients from whom Sylvia steals without servicing are not the only people after Sylvia, however, as private detective Moby (Ip Man's Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, who also directed) – actually an office gofer left in charge by his mob-indebted boss (Barefoot in the Park's Herb Edelman) – discovers when he is approached by an Englishman (Open Your Eyes' Miguel Palenzuela) to trace the daughter of former housemaid to aristocracy Gloria. David and Thomas are dragged back into trouble when friend Moby learns of their association with Sylvia, and the four are soon fighting off a band of henchmen – lead by Force: Five's Benny Urquidez and American Kickboxer's Keith Vitali – hired by Mondale (Live Flesh's José Sancho) who means to prevent her and her mother from their rightful inheritance of his late brother's fortune.

Although Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, and Yuen Biao had grown up together training for the Peking Opera, becoming known as the "Three Brothers" during their time together, the three came into the movie business separately with youngest Biao working under elder Hung as stuntman, stunt coordinator, and actor, following him to Golden Harvest where Chan was already a performer as the discovery of Wei Lo (The Big Boss). The three would appear in various capacities credited and uncredited in the company's Bruce Lee films and vehicles of other Bruce Lee successor hopefuls before Hung would direct all three of them together in Winners & Sinners followed by Chan helming Project A and Hung again with Wheels on Meals. More intimate in scale than the projects surrounding it – the three-way partnership would last a few more movies, including smaller roles for Hung and Biao in Project A2 before their career trajectories would take them in different directions again as each were marketed by Golden Harvest as lead actors. The European setting is the novelty here, but the rather formulaic nature of the storyline matters little as a framework for some entertaining fight set-pieces including a skateboard versus motorbike fracas with a gang of Hell's Angels lead by Blackie Shou Liang Ko (Jet Li's The Enforcer) and the three intercut climactic fights between Hung and fencing Sancho, Biao and Vitali, and the battle until exhaustion showdown between Chan and Urquidez. Miss Spain 1979 Forner Although Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, and Yuen Biao had grown up together training for the Peking Opera, becoming known as the "Three Brothers" during their time together, the three came into the movie business separately with youngest Biao working under elder Hung as stuntman, stunt coordinator, and actor, following him to Shaw where Chan was already a performer as the discovery of Wei Lo (The Big Boss) and then to Golden Harvest. The three would appear in various capacities credited and uncredited in the company's Bruce Lee films and vehicles of other Bruce Lee successor hopefuls before Hung would direct all three of them together in Winners & Sinners followed by Chan helming Project A and Hung again with Wheels on Meals. More intimate in scale than the projects surrounding it – the three-way partnership would last a few more movies, including smaller roles for Hung and Biao in Project A2 before their career trajectories would take them in different directions again as each were marketed by Golden Harvest as lead actors. The European setting is the novelty here, but the rather formulaic nature of the storyline matters little as a framework for some entertaining fight set-pieces including a skateboard versus motorbike fracas with a gang of Hell's Angels lead by Blackie Shou Liang Ko (Jet Li's The Enforcer) and the three intercut climactic fights between Hung and fencing Sancho, Biao and Vitali, and the battle until exhaustion showdown between Chan and Urquidez. Miss Spain 1979 Forner had already appeared in a small role in Project A and would reunite with Chan in Armour of God.already appeared in a small role in Project A and would reunite with Chan in Armour of God.
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Video

Released theatrically in the UK in an English-dubbed version with a different score running ten minutes shorter than the Hong Kong version – and directly to VHS stateside from Tai Seng in Cantonese with dual English/Chinese print subtitles – Wheels on Meals would be restored to its original length for later home video releases, including Fortune Star's circa 2003 digital remastering of their catalogue with new, though not always good, 5.1 remixes of English, Cantonese, and Mandarin tracks. This remastered version appeared in the UK in 2006 as part of the Hong Kong Legends line while the subsequent Hong Kong, South Korean, German, and Japanese Blu-rays have been upscales. Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray is derived from a new 2K restoration, and the results are eye-poppingly pleasing. Since the film was shot flat rather than using the outmoded anamorphic lenses used on the Hong Kong productions, and none of the diffusion often used in sunny daytime exteriors.
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Audio

Audio options are incredibly comprehensive. The original Cantonese track is included in LPCM 1.0 mono and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 while the "classic" English dub is also presented in both LPCM 1.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The 2003 English dub – which featured the original score – is in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. A pleasant surprise here is a hybrid Cantonese LPCM 2.0 stereo track which weds the Cantonese dialogue track to the music and effects track of the classic English dub. The recommended tracks are the less gimmicky Cantonese or English LPCM 1.0 versions or the hybrid track which features the Cantonese dubbing and a cleaner version of the export M&E with stereo separation that does not ping pong around like the 5.1 tracks, all three of which are have depth and directionality but never really support the action with any visceral heft. Only one optional English subtitle track is included for the Cantonese tracks.
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Extras

Extras are mostly ported over from the Hong Kong Legends package, although the Bey Logan commentary and Brett Ratner fan interview have been dropped for obvious reasons. In "On Giant's Shoulders" (7:41), actor/director Hung reveals that the choice to shoot in Barcelona was the desire for a "different urban landscape." He also discusses the casting, including his own choice in Edelman for the small but comedic role, and rumors at the time of a throw down between Chan and Urquidez. Also included is an archival interview with actor/director Sammo Hung (10:05) in which he discusses much of the same but in English (this extra is presumably the same interview included on the Japanese Blu-ray). In "Born to Fight" (14:57), actor Biao discusses his Peking Opera training with Chan and Hung, as well as working under Hung as a stuntman and action choreographer at Shaw and being pushed to become an actor at Golden Harvest. Of the film, he recalls collaborating with Hung and Chan on the fight scenes, the painful awning stunt, and their movie-based research for the fencing scene. In "Jet Fighter" (28:24), kickboxing champion and martial-artist Benny "The Jet" Urquidez discusses his own beginnings as the son of a boxer father and wrestler mother, his training, becoming involved in what would become known as kickboxing, getting into stunt work (without realizing that his fellow stuntmen work padding), competing in Japan where he came to the notice of Chan who offered him a role in the film. He discusses his developing friendship with Chan, adapting their fighting styles to work together, and how Chan had indeed challenged him to a fight set for the end of production just to get him, the cast, and the crew worked up during shooting. At the time of the interview, he was teaching camera fighting at the Lee Strasberg drama school.
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In "King of the Ring" (33:23), martial-artist Keith Vitali discusses getting into martial arts, studying under Bruce Lee, Joe Lewis, and Chuck Norris, his programs developed to teach bullied kids self-defense (with an emphasis on not injuring the other kids), and travelling to Spain to shoot the film. He also conveys his respect and admiration for the "Three Brothers" while also noting the hierarchy that was retained between the trio from school. "The Inside Track" (34:44) is an interview with action choreographer and later director Stanley Tong (Rumble in the Bronx). He recalls his own martial arts training, becoming a stuntman and realizing it was too dangerous for him, moving on to work as script supervisor, assistant director, camera operator, and production manager before making his own film Stone Age Warriors, comparisons of which to Chan's Armour of God by Golden Harvest's Leonard Ho lead to Chan asking him to director Police Story 3: Supercop. The end credits outtakes were not yet a normal part of Chan's films at the time of Wheels on Meals but the Japanese version titled Spartan X made use of them, and it is seen here with here with (3:25) with an English end crawl (presumably the Japanese distributor only did new credits for the opening titles) – press materials stated that there would be an option to watch this sequence as an extra or on the feature presentation but I was unable to find it for the feature – while another loose assembly of outtakes (4:01) is also included. Video extras close out with the original theatrical trailer (4:08), the international theatrical trailer (2:13) with English narration and dialogue, as well as the Japanese "Spartan X" Theatrical Trailer (2:33). Not provided for review were the limited edition slipcase and collector's booklet featuring a new essay by James Oliver that accompany the first pressing of four thousand copies.

Overall

Although the Spanish setting is the only novel twist on a Jackie Chan comedy actioner, Wheels on Meals delivers on the fights and action set-pieces.

 


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