Fox // 1982 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 8th, 2004
It's not about men in blue shorts beating up dogs.
A trim Chow Yun-Fat(Free) headlines this 1981 martial arts actioner helmed by Freddy vs. Jason auteur Ronny Yu. Here's a two-word capsule review: it's weird.
Life is good for Ma (Leung Ka Yan), a postman delivering mail to rural countries in China. The fact that the country is in political upheaval and being ravaged by warlords matters little to him; he's got a job to do, and that's delivering mail.
But this ambivalent existence is shattered when towns inform him that they can't afford his services. Now he's in search of a job. Ma connects with some political higher-ups who give him some employment: deliver some secret packages to a secret guy and don't tell anyone, because it's a secret. An escort group is formed, comprised of Ma, a fat pyrotechnic who's good with bombs, and Fu Jun (Yun-Fat), a shifty outlaw.
Together, the band of brothers heads off into the China wilderness. Along the way they pick up a few ladies who promise to cook and wash laundry if they can come along too. So now we have a nice little "Fellowship of the FedEx," traipsing through the countryside, cavorting around camp fires, and generally getting to know each other.
Unfortunately, there are a few mean folks who are after these mysterious packages, including a brother-brother team of martial artists who have an innovative, yet exceedingly impractical way to fight: the short brother clings to the tall brother's back, and the two fight simultaneously. There's also a mysterious ninja man who systematically kills off group members. And a group of ice-skating assassins. And lastly, the proper recipient of the package, a crazed warlord who likes to mow down hapless peasants strapped to bamboo poles with a machine gun.
Luckily, there's a certain postman, who, you know, is ready to fight back!!!
This is a movie that ambushes you with its weirdness. The buildup is slow. Don't expect much action, and the martial artistry you are treated to is unimpressive and poorly choreographed stuff, even with Chow Yun-Fat letting the fists fly.
But once these travelers get to travellin' they wander from the world of the sane to the realm of the insane. Where to start? Well, as they cross a frozen lake, ten attackers on ice skates come rocketing toward them with clubs. THUD! KER-PLOW! BAMMO! Watch our heroes defend themselves against the outcasts of the Ice Capades!
That fight with the "piggy-back twins" is also a real corker. The hand-to-hand choreography itself is sub-par, and forget the fact you're watching two assassins engaging in the least practical tactic of mortal combat ever -- the uniqueness itself is what kept me entertained.
The violence escalates to shocking levels toward the end. Those peasants being used for target practice was bad enough. But then the warlord turns the gun on a couple of kids. Yikes! But he gets his -- well, I won't spoil anything, but lets just say I was impressed with the capability of rats to handle explosives.
Finally, the final fight featuring the postman and the ninja is quite good. Again, the actual martial artistry leaves a bit to be desired, but Ronny Yu uses some nice innovations to make the battle quite cool. And the final bad-guy death is deserving of a rating of 8 Drop Zones™ (named after the Wesley Snipes movie, which contains, in my opinion, the single greatest final bad-guy death of all time).
The video transfer is mixed. A 2.35:1 widescreen treatment serves the film well, but the transfer itself is not too great. It's probably because the print is so old, but there is a lot of issues with the picture: the colors are washed out, the contrast is uneven, and scenes in the dark look very shifty. However, the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are surprisingly tight. The surrounds actually do some work, and usage of the discrete channels is evident.
A few versions of the theatrical trailers are your extras.
Slow to start but wacky to finish, The Postman Fights Back is every bit as crazy as the title suggests.
Not guilty, but it was close. I think it was those rats that sold me.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Chinese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Chinese)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Rated R