The Postman Fights Back Review
Being as The Postman Fights Back is the first Hong Kong Legends title to feature one of my all time favourite actors, Chow Yun-Fat (A Better Tomorrow 1 & 2), I was really looking forward to something quite special. The titles prospects started to look down though when it became apparent that Chow was not the main star, but was in fact being used to market one of Hong Kong Legends lesser acquisitions (they got both the good, the bad, and the average as part of their deal with Media Asia) based on the success of his recent hit (and deservedly so), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Intrepidly I continued forth and set upon my journey to watch, and hopefully enjoy, The Postman Fights Back.
As an adaptation of a popular Chinese folk tale, Postman tells the story of four heroes who take on a mission to deliver a gift within seven days to the enemy of the vicious Warlord Yue Sai Hoi. Our four heroes comprise of Brother Ma, the postman of our story (Leung Kar-Yan of Legend of a Figher fame), Fu Jun, a gambler and a cheat (Chow Yun-Fat), Lao Bu, an explosives expert (Fan Mui Sang, as seen in Magnificent Butcher), and Yao Gi, a thief (Yuen Yat Chor, who can be seen as the younger version of Fok Yun Gap in Legend of a Fighter). On their journey our heroes come across much resistance, be it in the form of assassins or enemy warriors they must fight their way through the treacherous terrain ahead of them so as to complete their mission.
The first 20 minutes of Postman is used to introduce each of our four heroes, sadly this is the first stumbling block for director Ronny Yu (Bride with White Hair, Bride of Chucky) as none of the characters receives an inspiring introduction, leaving you willing the film to move forward so our heroes can embark upon their journey. Once the heroes are on their way they quickly run into trouble, however the first group action sequence and the various action sequences that follow all fail to inspire. There are some genuinely interesting ideas on display, mostly coming from the fight sequences involving Chow Yun-Fat (who holds his own when it comes to displaying his limited Martial Arts abilities) where we see what can only be described as the 'Piggyback' stance, a nasty looking set of Nunchuku and an interesting use of a Scarf (which proves to be quite an effective weapon). Where the action scenes fail is the relatively dull choreography that feels tired in comparison to recent HKL titles like Magnificent Butcher, even the promising finale (in a superb looking forest) which involves a one on one showdown fails to inspire, leaving this Hong Kong Action fan feeling like a misguided Joe-Public when he finds himself saying "Well that's just stupid" when seeing a Ninja dive into the ground and tunnel around like a mole. I (like any Hong Kong Movie fan) know that Hong Kong movies are a little bit different, but when they are poorly executed even I find it hard to go with the flow!
Both Leung Kar-Yan and Chow Yun-Fat put in a decent performance, while Fan Mui Sang is a joy to watch as ever, with a great line up of talented actors Postman really is a missed opportunity and although it is not a bad film, there has to be something wrong when 85 minutes feels like 2 hours! Before I end this review, let me just say that if this were an American film it would be absolutely atrocious, but due to the loveable quirks found in most Hong Kong films The Postman Fights Back remains a watchable title, there are however a huge selection of far better alternatives at your fingertips thanks to the DVD format.
This Hong Kong Legends DVD is R2 and R4 dual encoded.
As with all recent Hong Kong Legends DVDs this film has been presented in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement for widescreen owners. For a Hong Kong film originally released back in 1982 the quality of the print is extremely good showing very little in the way of traditional print damage (dust specs or lines). Throughout the film there are however certain areas of the print that showcase an annoying shimmering in the picture as well as a high level of grain, dark scenes are not helped by poor contrast levels (giving a somewhat VHS look to the nigh time shots) that detract from the detail present throughout the rest of the film. Apart from these problems the transfer is generally very good showing a high level of detail in close-ups (look at the Bath-house scene for some great foreground detail) as well as some good detail in the various long shots, colour is also generally very good although it never quite leaps off the screen as maybe it should (given the various vista's on show).
Both the original Cantonese Language track and the English Dub have been remixed into the Dolby Digital 5.1 format. Unfortunately I do not have the facilities to make use of the surround effects but I can tell you that both tracks sound extremely good showcasing a clarity that is quite unusual for such an old Hong Kong title. Being a purist at heart I always recommend the original language track for any film, I did however sample the English dub and I am happy to report that it is not all bad. Sure it has the usual dodgy American accents but the dialogue is reasonably close to the original script and there is very little to no use of excessive language (always a problem with English dubs). HKL have provided us with both English and Dutch subtitles, both are well presented using an easy to read white font while the English track appears to be well translated with no signs of spelling or grammatical errors.
The main extra feature for this release is an Audio Commentary from a new Hong Kong Cinema expert, Stefan Hammond. Now, I myself have read all the negative comments relating to his commentaries on the recent HKL DVDs and unfortunately I have to report that they are quite true. For the first 10 minutes he is actually quite engaging, explaining (albeit briefly) the history of China is a good start as the film skips over it very quickly (as the home audience would only require a refreshers course) but then he goes on to literally explain what is happening onscreen for the rest of the movie! I often wondered if HKL even told Hammond there would be an English Dub track and subtitles on this release, as anyone would think he was providing a running translation rather than a commentary! The occasional nugget of information does creep in regarding the various stars, and Hammond does show a genuine appreciation for Hong Kong movies that, as a fellow fan is always great to hear, but this really does not make for an enjoyable listen and is probably best tackled in several sittings (if you bother at all).
The other notable new extras are an interview with Chow Yun-Fat (whose name is misspelled in the footage) that was filmed quite recently, and a standard biography. In the 7 minute interview Chow talks about how he started in the film industry, his work and friendship with John Woo and about the style of films that he and Woo made together (and to mine and many fans delight, how he is waiting to make an American film with John Woo). For any fan of Chow (like myself) this is a great little interview that will no doubt get you smiling along with Chow (and his trademark cheesy grin) and is also quite insightful to his feelings on John Woo's work, it is a bit of a missed opportunity that no questions regarding The Postman Fights Back were asked, but nonetheless this is still a worthy inclusion and one that will no doubt make an appearance on future HKL DVDs. The biography for Chow is of the standard static text variety and is fairly in-depth, although if you have not seen A Better Tomorrow 1 or 2 and you do not like major spoilers it is advised that you do not read through this!
Apart from the now standard (and again pointless) Gallery of stills, the Original Theatrical Trailer (far too long, clocking in at the 4 minute mark) and HKL own Promotional Trailer for The Postman Fights Back the only remaining extras have both featured on the Legend of a Fighter HKL DVD. The fist of these extras comes in the form of an animated Biography showcase for Leung Kar-Yan, running for 11 minutes this biography is of the usual high standards and gives the viewer a multitude of background information on this unique actor (who was never formally trained in Martial Arts!). The final extra is an interview with Leung Kar-Yan that focuses on how he entered into the film industry, first working as an actor but then progressing on to direct his own features. This interview is another worthy inclusion but much like the Chow Yun-Fat interview, makes no mention of The Postman Fights Back.
Not the greatest release from Hong Kong Legends (both in terms of the film and the overall DVD quality) The Postman Strikes Back is worth a rent, if only to see a young Chow Yun-Fat at work demonstrating his adequate fighting abilities.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 18:56:04