Blu-Ray Review – Wheels on Meals

Wheels on Meals is a relatively early film in Jackie Chan’s long and insanely productive career as a action superstar. Chan had already became a superstar in his native Hong Kong, and had started trying to break out into the international market—and especially the American market. He wouldn’t gain superstar status in the US until the smash hit success of Rumble in the Bronx, but by then he had already been a cult figure for over a decade. Wheels on Meals is set in Barcelona and partly shot there, because the Hong Kong government was reluctant to license filming at that points. the action stars of the time were too big to roam the street and to get more international interest in Chan and it wouldn’t have worked to fake the locations in the Golden Harvest studios.

The plots of Jackie Chan films are really not the point, and for narrative precision you should look elsewhere. Wheels on Meals is no exception. Thomas (Jackie Chan) and David (Yuen Biao) run a fast food truck in the heart of Barcelona, and Thomas uses a skateboard to deliver the orders. The entire plot is utterly convoluted and involves a Spanish pickpocketing prostitute, a bumbling private detective and a criminal gang. The narrative is just used to wrap around the crazy action and stunts of Chan and co., which is very typical of Jackie Chan films. It screws around with just being goofy, then gets straight to point, which is why sometimes Jackie Chan films that have been cut down for the US market work better for Western viewers.

The film has a few odd and pointless subplots, including a very weird and problematic portrayal of mental illness. It’s not quite an absolute classic, and I do tend to prefer Chan to be slightly serious rather than just out and out comedic, but it depends. That’s why the first Police Story, for instance, is such a great film. The humour is fine here, it somewhat falls flat but the action scenes redeem it—and the action is as always directed by Jackie Chan. You also have this martial arts dream team of Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung as Moby, the aforementioned bumbling detective, and the final action scene is pure cinema.

The disc includes a new 2K restoration, various English and Cantonese audio tracks (all of them are overdubbed, and the translations vary, so which track to choose is up to you), various archival cast and crew interviews, a formerly rare bloopers end credits (a later staple of Chan films), the trailer and a booklet with new writing on the film.

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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