By all accounts, the immigrant experience for anyone anywhere will always be a tough one. From learning a new language to shifting towards new customs and eating habits, the road to both assimilation and success is a long and confounding one with few tangible rewards hanging at the end. Countless stories have been told to illustrate these perils, but since this article is a film review, I am obviously obliged to say that all of these stories suck until it’s put on a reel. With all this in mind, I think it’s safe to say that film has always been a veritable medium for expressing these harrowing journeys of migrants seeking fresh opportunities elsewhere, but none have ever seemed as entertaining as one particular venture involving three “dirty Chinamen” rampaging the streets of Barcelona in what would be one of the greatest fucking films the 80’s had ever seen, and that film is Wheels on Meals.
Set amidst a multicultural Barcelona in the early 80’s, the film draws on the ordinary exploits of two migrant cousins who run a Chinese fast food van, Thomas (played by the awesome Jackie Chan) and David (played coyly by the acrobatic Yuen Biao). The opening scene depicts their daily routine of stretching and sparring before getting the van going for some lunch time goodness, for which the people of Barcelona seem to enjoy rather well. However, the business is always beset by colorful delinquents, for which the two cousins are more than capable of dispatching in grand style. It seems rather odd to find two of Hong Kong’s most well known action stars (count in director / writer / God Sammo Hung in the mix and you have three) making ends meet in Spain, but the welcome change in scenery makes the film an adventurous ride from the get go. Sure it’s not the familiar sites of Asia, but seeing these guys wow the crowds with their stuntwork throughout Barcelona must’ve been something else.
Things start to become complicated with the inclusion of Silvia (played by the stiffy-riffic Lola Forner), a troubled pickpocket who David goes head over heels for. She’s obviously the proverbial trouble woman for these two, even going so far as to play hooker to snatch some cash; and if that’s not all, we’ve got a bumbling private eye named Moby (played by Sammo Hung, who it seems, is make an ode to Yusaku Matsuda’s role in Tantei Monogatari) thrown into the mix too. And with some shady noblemen and quickfooted characters in suits, the movie quickly become one memorable action romp throughout the streets of Spain.
Sammo Hung’s eye for action is really what made this film great, and if the fight sequences don’t grip you in some way, then chances are you’re a fucking asshole. I don’t care if you’re Mother Theresa or St. Peter, but if I don’t hear a “Holy Shit” or a “How the fuck did Benny kick out those candles” from your lips then you must be some asshat that hides under a rock and watches shallow shit like “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” or something. Even the little piddly fights out on the street are so hard hitting that you could swear you heard your grandfather shake in his coffin when Yuen Biao spin kicked some dirty Spaniard onto the pavement face first. And let’s not get started with Jackie Chan here. My boy had the BEST fight in the film, if not, one of the best fights EVER filmed (with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez of course). I mean look, LOOK at this fight!!
See? What the hell did I tell ya?
There’s so much that has been said about this film over the course of its life, so to be perfectly honest, there’s not much I can add that others haven’t already highlighted. On the surface, Wheels on Meals is a tale of two guys trying to make a unique living in a place that doesn’t entirely seem like home to them, but in its heart, it’s an action movie made for action fans by action gurus. It’s clear that I love this movie a lot, but the love has to spread. From the setting, to the goofy characters and finally the fights, Wheels on Meals is a window to what Hong Kong action cinema offered in the 80s. For some of you out there, this may not be your cup of tea, but if you’re looking for something that will spark that legendary love for asian action cinema that some of us film geeks have, then look no further. Wheels on Meals is a gem, and yes, it’s streaming on Netflix too, so watch it, A.S.A.P.!!!