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The Postman Fights Back

(left) Leung Ka-Yan and (right) Chow Yun-Fat deliver some packages in The Postman Fights Back.
Chinese: 巡城馬
Year: 1982
Director: Ronny Yu Yan-Tai
Producer: Raymond Chow  
Action: Yuen Cheung-Yan, Yuen Shun-Yi  
Cast: Leung Ka-Yan, Eddy Ko Hung, Chow Yun-Fat, Fan Mei-Sheng, Cherie Chung Chor-Hung, Yuen Yat-Chor
The Skinny: A postman leads a ragtag group of heroes on a secret mission to transport some mysterious goods in this early film from director Ronny Yu. Dull and meandering at first, the film eventually picks up steam all the way to its wild finale. The scene-stealing performance by Chow Yun-Fat, as well as the loony, ninja-filled martial arts sequences, are worth the price of admission.
Review by

Although the box art for The Postman Fights Back would have you believe that Chow Yun-Fat is this star of the movie, the truth of the matter is that he is neither the star nor the "fighting postman" of the title. That distinction falls upon actor Leung Ka-Yan, who takes on the lead role of Ma, a courier who faithfully delivers the mail throughout rural China. Things seem to be going well with the whole postman gig, but after being told that the town can no longer afford his services, Ma's luck begins to run out. But instead of "going postal" on the community in retaliation, nice guy Ma looks for another job that best suits his talents. Soon enough, he finds himself embroiled in a covert operation of far greater magnitude than he could possibly imagine.

After a somewhat lackadaisical start, the plot kicks in when a shadowy character known only as Hu (Eddy Ko Hung) makes overtures to find someone willing to transport a few important packages across the country. To take care of the job, a makeshift team is assembled, including Ma, a petty thief named Yao Jie (Yat Chor Yuen), an explosive specialist known as Bu (Fan Mei-Sheng), and a con man by the name of Fu Jun (Chow Yun-Fat). The quartet is soon joined by a female villager named Gui-Hua (Cherie Chung), plus another woman (Guk Ching-Suk), who's being pursued by bandits. Although the title seems focused on one character, at this point, the film plays out much more like an ensemble piece. They must unite to protect their delivery, but what's hidden inside? Thankfully, the MacGuffin of The Postman Fights Back doesn't remain a mystery forever.

While the mission seems rather straightforward at first, the group soon discovers more than a few deadly complications as numerous warring factions try to gain control of the secret cargo, and even worse, they aren't squeamish about taking some lives in the process. As the plot unfolds, the various team members become close comrades and even make some definite progress to achieving their goal. But guess what? IT ALL GOES TO HELL! Characters you wouldn't expect to die end up biting the big one in the film's near apocalyptic final act. Things don't end on a sour note, but be warned, it's a bloody trail towards the end. Simply put, there's a reason why the postman finally has to "fight back."

As this is a martial arts film first and foremost, the question arises, "How were the fight scenes?" Well, I can tell you that notable "boss battles" include two martial artist brothers who innovatively find themselves "piggyback" fighting with our heroes. Then there's the enigmatic, ever-ubiquitous ninja with an amazing bag of tricks. And towards the end, there's even a totally psychotic villain who has no compunction about killing defenseless men, women, or children. Oh, and did I mention the ice-skating ninjas? Yep, it's that kind of movie. The martial arts sequences have a wild energy to them, and while not exactly groundbreaking, they are certainly innovative enough to hold the viewer's attention. Leung Ka-Yan and Chow Yun-Fat (and their stunt doubles) do a fine job selling the action, which is fast, furious, and sometimes purposely funny.

To return to the issue of the "false advertising" on display in the poster art, it's worth mentioning that as the film develops, Chow Yun-Fat steals the film away from Leung Ka-Yan - perhaps even from the moment he first appears onscreen. Even without the benefit of a post-Better Tomorrow hindsight, Chow definitely shows clear-cut signs of his future leading man potential. And in keeping with his character, Chow exudes a charming, rakish persona that's hard not to like, which is in stark contrast with the character of Ma. That's not to say that Leung Ka-Yan doesn't deliver a solid performance, but he does so in a thankless, dour role that pales in comparison to Chow's.

In sum, The Postman Fights Back isn't quite a Hong Kong cinema classic, but it's not forgettable trash either. It gets off to a slow start, but once the plot gets moving and Chow Yun-Fat's character is introduced, the film really starts to take off. Fan Mei-Sheng provides adequate support, and Eddy Ko delivers a fine turn as the film's shadowy, insanely powerful antagonist. With some familiar faces and some gonzo action sequences to its credit, The Postman Fights Back is an odd, but engaging transitional film, caught somewhere between the style of those old school Shaw Brothers martial arts flicks and those films would later become identified with the Hong Kong New Wave. It also has exploding mice. How's that for a recommendation? (Calvin McMillin 2006)

Availability: DVD (HK)
Region 3 NTSC
Joy Sales
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1 / Dolby Digital 2.0
Interview with Ronny Yu and Leung Kar-Yan, Trailers, Photo Gallery

images courtesy of Fortune Star Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen