Wheels on Meals | aka Spartan X (1984) Review

"Wheels on Meals" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Wheels on Meals" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Million Dollar Heiress
Director: Sammo Hung
Writer: Johnny Lee, Edward Tang
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Lola Forner, Benny Urquidez, Keith Vitali, Herb Edelman, Susanna Sentis, Wu Ma, Paul Chang, Blacky Ko, Richard Ng, John Sham
Running Time: 104 min.

By Dan-O

First off, I’ve gotta say this: Benny Urkidez is a first class, gold star, collector’s edition ass kicker. He’s the guy who shows Hollywood weekend warriors like Nick Cage how to look like they know what the fuck they’re doing when they throw a punch. And while it pains me to say this, Benny would more than likely take Jackie out in a real fight. He never lost a match is his professional career as a fighter, and that’s like 50 or 60+ pro fights.

Yeah, you’re right… I’m gushing.

Now, whether or not “Inside Kung-Fu” magazine called Benny’s final showdown with Jackie in this movie “The greatest onscreen fight ever” is moot, because I don’t read Inside Kung-Fu, and neither do the majority of you who’re reading this. I know that if you heard that it’s because you saw that anthology “The Deadliest Art”, and not because you read it in the magazine. But if they did print that, then I would have to back that statement up, because I don’t think I’ve yet witnessed a more perfect one-on-one battle scene. Sammo may make the silliest fuckin’ movies in the world, which he does (if you’re doubting that, watch the “Lucky Stars” movies, and then watch “Mr. Nice Guy”, and then we’ll chat), but goddamn if he doesn’t direct a good fight scene.

Well, so far, this ain’t no kinda movie review; it’s just me running off at the mouth about isolated aspects of the movie.

Ok, the movie, as a whole, is patchy (which is typical of a Sammo Hung film). Sammo ain’t no Steven Spielberg when it comes to pacing or characters. However, he IS the Spielberg/Cameron of the fight scene. His fight scenes are always kinetic, intuitive, dynamic, ingenious, and so on and so on, and the fight scenes in ‘Meals’ have all of those qualities, but they’re spaced out a bit too far, save for the end. Specifically, I found the fight with the dork bikers waaaay too damn short, although it was spectacular in that slo-mo crane shot, but I ain’t tellin’ what happens, for those still virgins to this film.

The cornball stuff is cute, but gets a little “too cute” in spots. The female lead here is, as always, a friggin’ knockout, as any less just wouldn’t do in a HK movie. The story, well, I’ve forgotten it already. That’s how involved I was with it. Like I’ve said before, if you want a good story, watch Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”, or the original “Jaws”. This movie is for fans to get their fight fix, maybe a couple of yukyuks, and that’s it.

There’s one thing that confuses the crap outta me…

How the hell did Yeun Biao keep his spine from flying out of his body like a cork in that stunt where, well, if you’ve seen the movie you know what the frak I’m talking about.

Dan-O’s Rating: 7/10 (Benny vs. Jackie finale scene; 10)

By James H.

What we have here is a fun movie. It combines the some great fights with some of Jackie’s funniest moments. Jackie & Yuen run are mobile restaurateurs who know how to kick asses. There is a plot in there, but I won’t bore you with the details. The fights are incredibly fast & furious! The fight between Jackie and Benny “The Jet” is now legendary. There were not too many fights, but the ones at the end are well worth the wait.

Jackie, Sammo & Yuen make a great team. I would love to see them reunite for a kick-ass action/comedy. The jokes are genuinely funny, the three playing off each other like the 3 Stooges and the Marx Brothers. Did anyone else notice that Sammo didn’t get ANY respect from anyone in the movie?

I’m glad Tai Seng is becoming a real video company. I saw the new re-release with excellent subtitles! The only time I had to hit the rewind button was to see Jackie’s moves over & over & over….

James H’s Rating: 9.5/10

By Ro

First the plot: Jackie and Yuen Biao are friends who run a mobile food van. They discover that Yuen’s father’s girlfriend’s daughter (got that?) is a pickpocket. Their old friend, Samo Hung, is a P.I. who’s supposed to find her and her mother. There are a gang of bad guys also after the women.

The emphasis in this picture is more on comedy (there are some really old jokes in it) than on fighting and action. The fights are few, far between and FAR too short until the glorious one at the end (more on that later). But have to admit, the comedy worked for me! I thought it was hilarious, mostly because of the incredible chemistry between the 3 ‘brothers’. I guess that kind of rapport only comes after 10 years of training, torture and starvation together. But, man, then they’re hot, they’re hot! The girl is only useful to give them an excuse to fight with each other. (OK, she’s beautiful, but couldn’t they get somebody who has talent other than being able to come out of a shower with full makeup and hair that dries in 5 minutes? She acts like somebody told her that using her face muscles would cause wrinkles!)

Although the fight scenes are short, they’re sweet, and the car chase is awesome! I admit to being prejudiced when it comes to car chases. I think nobody can do them like Hollywood. This one proves me wrong! And the idea of using the facilities of their roach coach as weapons ALA the Batmobile or Bond’s car was just brilliant! The final fight scenes with the 3 brothers all over the castle is wonderful. And of course, the final fight between Benny Urquidez and Jackie is a classic. I have to agree with all the hype – this fight is one of the best I’ve seen yet. And it’s not just because of the incredible power and skill of the two opponents. A lot of the credit has to go to Samo Hung for his direction of the scene. These men don’t just fight, flinging fists and chairs and feet at each other, they take time to size each other up. You can see the intelligence and purpose in their eyes, and you watch them plan their next course of attack. I believe that is what makes this scene so great.

Samo’s sense of pacing, which is noticeably lacking in the rest of the film (the song really has to go!), is spot on in this fight and makes this movie one of Jackie’s best. If you want to buy it, I recommend Tai Seng’s letterbox, subtitled version. It’s good qualities and the subtitles are very clear (I’ve heard there are a lot of bad copies around).

Ro’s Rating: 9.5/10

By Master of the Stick

Well, I finally got around to seeing Wheels on Meals, and it lives up to the hype. Trademark zany comedy, a skateboardin’ Jackie, and a fast-food van car chase are some of the reasons why this movie kicks ass. Unfortunately, the plot sucked, and the only way to make up for that would be with an abundance of fight scenes (like in Drunken Master). Wheels on Meals doesn’t deliver, and it sometimes drags between fights (It didn’t help that the dubbing was awful). The biker gang also sucked, although not nearly as much as the Rumble in the Bronx punks. Any shortcomings will be forgotten, however, when you see the final battle. While Jackie dukes it out in a stellar fight with Benny “the Jet,” Yuen Biao mixes it up with a standard bad guy, and Sammo Hung shows off his swashbuckling skills. All together, it just might be the greatest ending fight scene in kung fu cinema. Watch it!

Master of the Stick’s Rating: 9/10

By Marcia

OK, it’s pretty funny, but I have to disagree with some of the high ratings other folks give this film. For me, the best part of the humor is the (apparently somewhat real) tension between Samo and Yuen Biao/Jackie. They “act” like they’ve grown up annoying each other.

Various points throughout made me laugh quite a bit (e.g., Samo’s comment that elephants don’t climb trees, or his traditional two-sword style against a European fencer), and the fights at the end are some good action, but I’d have to say it’s only average overall.

Marcia’s Rating: 7/10

By Shazbot!

An OK movie that I don’t think lives up to its hype. The fight against the motorcycle gang was too short. Some good comedy and a high-tech van that seemed to repair itself after every crash (must have been inspired by Sheriff Buford T Justice’s regenerating car in Smokey II). While the final fight was OK, I was most impressed with a sequence with Keith Vitali and Yuen Biao. Keith chases Yuen up on a table, Yuen flips off and lands in an overstuffed chair avoiding a sweeping kick, then flips out of the chair over the table, twists, and lands on the couch as Keith does a flying kick where Yuen WAS and lands in the chair. One continuous shot! I replayed this slomo several times in awe. Better than any single JC shot, and worth seeing the movie.

Shazbot!’s Rating: 7/10

By Stockton22

Am I the only one who doesn’t like this movie? A year after the phenomenal Project A, the three brothers return for this surprisingly dull effort. While it is a pretty funny movie (it’s almost like a kung-fu version of “Dumb and Dumber”), I don’t watch Jackie Chan movies exclusively for the comedy. The laughs in a Jackie Chan movie usually serve to lighten up the mood to make the film more enjoyable, not to serve as the basis for the film’s entire entertainment. There’s hardly any action for the first hour of the movie, and the few action sequences that do come were over before I had the chance to sit up. Example, a motorcyle gang goes after Jackie and Yuen. Now, there’s four or five mean lookin’ thugs on choppers, this looks like it’s gonna be totally rad. Then they head for Jackie and Yuen Biao, who both jump and kick the guys as they ride in and knock them to the ground. AND THAT’S IT! THE FREAKIN’ SCENE’S OVER! ARE YOU KIDDIN’ ME?

There’s finally action in the last half hour, but even that is pretty sporadic until the very end. The much heralded showdown between Jackie and Benny “the Jet” Urquidez is pretty slammin’, especially with all the real blows that ensued during the filming. But I personally don’t find Sammo Hung’s direction very exciting. His fighting scenes are more realistic, but in this movie at least, it seems to come at the expense of the flashy theatrics we’ve come to expect from Jackie. Looking more like real life may be admirable, but it isn’t very thrilling. I live in New York City, if I want to see real fighting, I can just look out the damn window. And speaking of keeping it real, what the hell is Urquidez wearing under his shirt? Foam rubber? Thermal insulation? A LIFE JACKET? No wonder Jackie got mad when Urquidez really kicked him. And while I’m being totally petty, let me bring up the subject of Sammo’s perm. What the hell’s that all about? I kept wondering when he was gonna put on a single glove, do the moonwalk and get the whole Michael Jackson impression over with. Overall, there’s enough action that it’s not a bad movie. But on the whole, it’s a strenuously disappointing snoozerama.

Stockton22’s Rating: 4/10

By Numskull

I like Samo Hung’s humor and I like his fight choreography but by Buddha I hate his sense of pacing! It’s not as bad as in “My Lucky Stars” or “First Mission”, but this movie really has lags in places. It’s mostly for comic relief, but I prefer that in small doses when there are asses to be kicked. The best bit of the humor award goes to the bum taking a shit next to Samo Hung.

The best fight, of course is Jackie vs. Benny Urquidez, if only by contrast to the other stuff going on in the castle at the time. While Chan the man and Benny the Jet are going at it like a couple of mad dogs, Samo is getting slice and diced by the baron and Yuen Biao (wearing chem lab goggles?!?) is running like a madman away from some other guy. My reaction to this was pretty much the same as when Jackie’s hotel room gets broken into by these two Australian guys in “First Strike”, “What the hell are you running away for?!? Fight damnit!”

I didn’t get my mechanical bull for Christmas so now life owes me!! Grab one of them sword thingies and wipe his ass with it!!!! *sigh*… Maybe I’m painting an unfair picture of this movie…right before seeing it I saw John Woo’s “Once a Thief” (The original, not the remake), which surpassed my expectations, while “Wheels on Meals'” fell a little bit short. But that’s no excuse not to see the damn thing people!

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10

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