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Postman Fights Back, The

Fox // R // September 7, 2004
List Price: $9.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted September 23, 2004 | E-mail the Author
Postman Strikes Back (1982) belongs in that category of movies released with little fanfare and regard only to find themselves picked back up years later by distributors reaching into the back catalogs. It is a cinematic resurrection by means of the stars/director getting some acclaim so suddenly even the turkeys they starred in get a new breath of life. In this case it is director Ronny Yu, who made his big mark in HK with the classic new wave swordplay The Bride With White Hair and in the US with Freddy Vs. Jason, and actor Chow Yun Fat, who four years following Postman Strikes Back would rise to icon status in A Better Tomorrow and would go on to a solid HK career and a much more minor move onto US screens with The Replacement Killers and Bulletproof Monk. So while Ronny Yu was in the directors chair, this isn't his best work, and while Chow Yun Fat does indeed appear in the movie, he pretty much co-stars with four other actors and is by no means the lead- so ignore his looming presence on that cover art.

Ma (Leung Kar Yan- Legend of a Fighter) is the postman of the title. As the Northern territories of China are slowly being connected to the rest of the nation, he finds his usefulness as a one man Pony Express (sans the pony) has began to wane. His buddy Yao Jie (Yuen Yat-choh) approaches him with the prospect of making a delivery for the slightly duplicitous looking Hu (Eddy Ko Hung). The package, which they aren't allowed to open and are ordered to destroy if anyone tries to steal it, is supposedly a gift to General Zhao and must be delivered within a few days across an area that is populated by bandits. Along with explosives expert Bu (Fan Mei) and assigned tag along scholar/fighter Fu (Chow Yun Fat), the foursome make the trek. Along the way, they are attacked by bandits, begin to doubt the benign nature of the package, and find that both revolutionaries and a mysterious ninja seem to be following them.

For a film with the Yuen Clan behind it, you could scarcely tell one of old school and modern martial actions greatest choreography dynasties was behind the scenes. The action is pretty flat and extremely limited. This film is just full of wasted potential. Really, it seems there was a budget or a script worthy of doing too much. The snow-covered locale is a great setting, even a frozen pond adds an inventive place for a fight (bandits on ice!), and the winter mood is nice... but it is just not enough.

Later in his career, Chow Yun Fat would prove he was better than this. Postman Strikes Back shows signs of his abily to be a charismatic, confident character, but he flat-out sucks as a martial performer, which is one of the big traits of his role. On the other hand, Leung Kar Yan had proven he was better when placed in the proper film with a good director like Sammo Hung or Yuen Woo Ping. He just doesn't have much to do, the character is flat, and his fight scenes largely lack anything notable for him to do.

Then we get to Fan Mei, who was, in my opinion, one of the big canker sores in kung fu filmdom. He's one of those fat guy actors, usually relegated to henchmen or comedic relief roles. I hate him in most everything I've seen him in, though that dislike helps in the minor bad guy roles. Exaggerated faces, poor acting, extremely unfunny, lack of menace, and I swear he looks like he had B.O. that probably stank like stale bread and rotten eggs. He is the pure definition of a zero.

By the end of the film you do get a decent finale, including a bit that seems to have been inspired by The Wild Bunch- only that goddamned Fan Mei is behind the Gatling gun. And the big final fight has some great ninja business, from smoke bomb disappearing, ground burrowing, to some flamethrower arm stuff. But, even then, like the rest of the film, it is sort of brief and not wholly everything that it could have been if some more energy and imagination went into it.

The DVD: Fox

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. This is probably the worst Fox/FortuneStar disc imagewise. The majority of the film appears damaged with some faded wear and tear at the edges of the film frame, including sever blue tinting which really comes out during the darker scenes. There is also that weird, uneven flicker effect that some of these Fox discs have. Therefore it is kind of negligable to mention anyhting about the color and sharpness or contrast- they all suffer due to the bad print. Perhaps the original elements are in really bad shape, but, the fact remains, I expected better from Fox.

Sound: English and Cantonese DTS or 5.1 Dolby Surround tracks or original Cantonese mono track. Optional English subtitles. The tracks are all fine. The original track does have considerable less dynamics, but overall sounds okay for such a low budget film. The remixes are also decent and do not exhibit as many terrible new action fx sounds as the older Fox releases.

Again, we enter the great sub vs. dub debate. Now, while I usually prefer subtitles, this time I actually liked the English dub. The reason is that the dub offers a much harder edge, an edge the film needs. For instance, when the subtitles read, "How can you live here?" the dub offers up, "How can you live in this shithole?" Or when Bu's mine co-worker is taunting him, the subs read, "Coward Bu. It suits you." and the dub decides to go straight for the jugular with, "Whatsamatta' fatty? Don't you have the balls to face me?" Yeah, the dub makes cruder choices, but in a weakly plotted film, sometimes a little vulgarity will at least amp up the drama.

Extras: Well, I'm oddly proud that the sole reason I give this film any stars at all is largely due to the ninja business. I'm an 80's kid that was, in part, raised by Sho Kosugi movies. So, I really like ninjas- even cheesball ninjas, and honestly, it is the best part of the film and the only thing that really leaves any impact. The transfer is weak, That, combined with the lameness of the film, makes this disc something most HK fans will want to avoid.

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