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Xun cheng ma (1982)

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The Republiic of China was still young, Shihai and the warlords were against Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. Long and his gang roamed the northern mountain areas. They are known as "The Pigtails" for the ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Ka-Yan Leung ...
Ma
Cherie Chung ...
Guihua
...
Fu Jun (as Chow Yun Fat)
Eddy Ko ...
Hu
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Mei Sheng Fan ...
Bu
Chen-Shu Ju
Yat Chor Yuen ...
Yao Jie
Edit

Storyline

The Republiic of China was still young, Shihai and the warlords were against Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. Long and his gang roamed the northern mountain areas. They are known as "The Pigtails" for the pigtails they wear. Because of the stratgic importance of the northern mountains Jiao sends his envoy. Written by Victor R. Volkman <sysop@hal9k.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

fight | courier | 1910s | ninja | ninjutsu | See All (8) »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some violence | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

4 June 1982 (Hong Kong)  »

Also Known As:

Patrol Horse  »

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

 
"One must have skills to travel the world" -- Fu Jun
29 July 2010 | by (Modesto, California) – See all my reviews

Many of Hong Kong films have a backdrop of historical intrigue in the Qing Dynasty (circa 1644 to 1911). Golden Harvest's The Postman Strikes Back takes place a few years after this period in 1913 just after the establishment of the Republic of China with Yuan Shikai and the Northern Warlords fighting Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. The historical aspects behind this is quite fascinating (though only mentioned a little in this film) because Sun was originally elected the first Provincial president after the Qing Dynasty and then helped get Yuan elected as First President of the China Republic, was most likely coerced into doing this and later would rebel against this (Sun would go to Japan shortly after the failed coup and Yuan would die a few years later in 1916.) Back to the story: bandit Zhao Long holds the northern mountain pass named Laoma that is of great use to Yuan militarily and sends envoy Hu (Eddy Ko Hung) to persuade Zhao to side with Yuan.

Hu enlists the help of a courier named Ma (Leung Kar-Yan from Drunken Dragon) a stoic no-nonsense man whose own job is fraught with little money, unappreciative little bastards who do not appreciate the melted chocolate he has brought them and the fact that he knows his living is in jeopardy as transportation like the railroads become more commonplace. Even then he was reluctant to help Hu until his troublemaker friend Yao Jie (Yuen Yat-Choh) decided (or was it another reason …) to employee himself under Hu. Now there is a little confusion on why he eventually took this job. Ma was confronted earlier by his sister Guihwa (Cherie Chung Cho-Hung) who had told him that father sold her 15-year old sister to Shanghai and needed money to get her back. Unfortunately this plot angle did not go anywhere (several story lines are mentioned in the film without resolution or sometimes without even being alluded to again like this one and Ma's career demise).

For 300 taels of gold per person, four cases of an unknown matter need to be delivered to Zhao Long before his birthday of December 20th. If anything gets compromised they are ordered to blow up the contents and to not look at them. Hu hired Fu Jun to join the group -- a cigarette smoking, scarf wearing gambler (reminds me a little of Tatsuya Nakadai in Yojimbo) who has baggage of his own -- played by a skinny Chow Yun-Fat in an early movie role. Joining Ma are friend Bu (played by great character actor Fan Mei-Sheng) a man who is an expert with explosives, Ma's sister Guihwa, and Southern rebel Li Fu whom they save later in the trip and possibly has eyes for Fu Jun (another dissipated angle). They all band together to deliver the goods or perish trying. Several of them would choose the latter.

Several negative aspects hurt an otherwise interesting film. There are too many loose ends, disappearing characters and conflicting story lines with the narrative. This could have been because of the use of four writers including the director Ronny Yu for the script. There is also too much exposition that slows the middle of the story without any progressing of the story. Sometimes Leung Kar-Yan would be too wooden in his acting approach though sometimes his austere nature was appropriate. The only problem I had with the filming was with the night scenes because they are appear murky probably because they are filmed on location and at night.

However, I think there are enough positives to make this an enjoyable movie. The cinematography is excellent and the use of the camera was ingenious in many scenes of a very cold Korean landscape (of course if you notice this then maybe the adventure was stagnant). Ronny Yu's (Fearless, The Bride With White Hair, Freddy vs. Jason) direction is quite good and consistently chooses interesting shooting techniques with hand-held cameras in many exterior shots. Eddy Ko Hung's is excellent as the villain. Ideas were impressive from the ice-skating bandits to Fu Jun's wrist bow to exploding rats. The fight scenes are interesting if a bit short with Chow fighting two bandits at once with one standing on a platform attached to the back of his partner and an excellent finale with the unmasked ninja fighting the protagonist Ma. The penultimate action sequence with Fan Mei-Sheng is probably the best scene in the film with a Ramboesque and Wild Bunch feeling to it. Ultimately though, the cohesion of all the elements is lacking and a tighter script and faster pacing could have made this a splendorous film. Though the movie may not be sublime at least you get to see an exploding ninja and Chow Yun Fat in a non-starring role attempt Kung Fu with his aggressive scarf-style. You may also learn that a compass can save your life against underground enemies.

The DVD copy I have is the Fortune Star/Fox release. It has a good transfer and unlike the earlier releases from this label it does not have dubtitles. There are really no extras except trailers which is normal for the bare-bone releases of Fortune Star/Fox. Of an interesting note here is what Bey Logan of Dragon Dynasty has to say about this film and its Fox release: "I hope one day we can do Postman Strikes Back justice on a future DVD re-issue. … The Fox US edition, though technically decent, didn't have much in the way of extras." Of course, extras would be nice though I do not see Dragon Dynasty doing a better job of a transfer.


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