Wheels on Meals

Wheels on Meals. Golden Harvest 1984.

Before watching the movie:

This seems relatively obscure, at least in this country, as a Hong Kong import. Though it did launch a franchise under the title it was distributed with in Japanese.

The first summary I saw didn’t give me much of an idea of what to expect and the other summary appears to lay out the entire movie, so i still don’t know what to expect beyond a couple of cousins running a food truck getting sidetracked by getting involved in… taking down a crime ring? Rescuing a Spanish heiress? I don’t have a whole lot to go on, but something something probably not The Pink Panther with kung fu (well, kung fu outside of the Kato scenes), but that’s the best thing I can connect it to with what I have.

After watching the movie:

Cousins Thomas and David live together in Barcelona where they operate a food truck that serves customers by skateboard. They also practice Kung Fu for their morning workouts. When visiting David’s father in a mental hospital, they meet Sylvia, the daughter of David’s father’s new girlfriend, and David is particularly enamored by Sylvia. Meanwhile, Moby, a PI’s assistant, gets left in charge of the agency when his boss skips town to avoid getting killed by some people he crossed and Moby is the only one left, and immediately thereafter a new anonymous client enters to hire the agency to find “the daughter of a woman I only knew as Gloria 22 years ago” for unspecified reasons but a lot of money. That evening, Thomas and David see Sylvia again, but are disappointed when it appears that she’s one of the prostitutes that work in that square until a few minutes after going inside with a man, she comes running out with his wallet and asking to hide in the van. David invites her to stay in their apartment for the night, which Thomas reluctantly agrees to. Even though they hid their money, in the morning it’s gone, and so is Sylvia, and so is their neighbor’s car. But when a gang of thugs turn up trying to kidnap Sylvia, she’s soon back at Thomas and David’s apartment, seeking help from the only two guys who didn’t just want to sleep with her.

Since Jackie Chan has spent most of his career focused on comedy and underdog roles, his action scenes usually have him on the back foot. So while I thought it was weird at first to have a scene where his character is a skateboarding waiter, it ends up being a great opportunity to just watch him masterfully execute his own choreography while actually portaying competence and confidence. Thomas is even more in his element skateboarding around a Spanish courtyard passing out food orders than he is using his fists and feet to convince a gang of bikers to get lost. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see him perform his art without having to hide his real skill.

The plot is maybe a few fights and a car chase too long, but it’s an action movie, so it’s going to be focused on spectacle, especially the spectacle of the trio of martial arts stars impressing with their moves. It’s also either too telegraphed or too reliant on withholding information for the reveal.

Since the version I saw was dubbed in English, I was often wondering if the original was only Cantonese as Wikipedia says, or if the Spanish actors spoke Spanish. I can’t really imagine getting a cast of European actors to perform in Cantonese, but aside from the difficulty with the tonalities, it might just be the imperialist background radiation that makes it difficult for me to imagine a story set in Europe with European characters played by European actors speaking Cantonese well enough to be understood by Chinese audiences. Also hearing an American voice when Jackie Chan’s mouth moves is almost as weird as Arnold Strong Schwarzenegger being dubbed in Hercules in New York.

As a Hong Kong movie from the early 80s, I didn’t quite take to it as well as I’ll probably like something like Rush Hour, but this was fun and had a lot of gags that made me laugh, and the urban Spanish setting was an unusual spin that kept things at an interesting angle for at least the first two acts.

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