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Blu-Ray Review: 88 Films’ The Postman Fights Back (88 Asia Collection) 

The Postman Fights Back

The Postman Fights Back – Not the Sequel to the Costner late 90s Epic but Ronnie Yu’s terrific men/women on a mission film Co-Starring Chow Yun-Fat that does not mess around.  New to Blu-Ray from 88 Films.

The Film 

Note: One should note the film depicts violence toward children.  

Ronnie Yu never gets enough credit.  Beyond his work in America (see two stone-cold classics Bride of Chucky and Fredy vs. Jason) his work in Hong Kong in the 80s and 90s was beyond reproach.  The Postman Fights Back is his first huge hit and is the kind of work that defined Yu.  Serious hard-hitting action, beautiful astute visuals, solid character work, and a story filled with enough twists and turns to show you are in the hands of an adroit storyteller.  

A down-on-his-luck courier/postman (Bryan Leung) in turn of the century China is persuaded by his friend (Yuen Yat-chor) to deliver three mysterious packages to rebel leaders in the mountains.  Postman agrees and takes a wild card (Chow Yun-Fat), an explosive expert (Fan Mei-sheng) along to take on the dangerous road ahead.  They get more than they bargained for as they’re fought every step of the way by thieves, ninjas with magical magnetic powers, ice-skating pirates, and more.  Only to find the true purpose of their delivered packages, turning a money grab into a heroic suicide mission.  

Yu’s film at a brisk 90 minutes gives you more drama, romance, action, adventure, twists, turns, and everything you could want than most modern action films that have an hour more runtime.  The Postman Fights Back (or The Postman Strikes Back as it is known in the US) looks at its lean economical runtime as an asset.  Yu working with editor Peter Cheung leaves no fat on the movie and works perfectly with impressions – and giving us characters as we head into the journey.  

However, what sets the movie apart from others of similar ilk is the action.  Though no one would be surprised to learn after watching the film that the legendary Yuen Woo-Ping was the action “planner” (aka action director) of the film.  Between Yu’s accomplished camera work and Woo-Ping’s stylish action, the work is elevated into a wildly inventive place that when you see Ice Skating Pirates taking on our heroes in the middle of a frozen lakebed, you’re primed for this visually arresting set piece and the deliriously blood-soaked final third of the film.  

The Postman Fights Back isn’t just a surprising action film find but a minor-key forgotten classic that one will be singing the praises of to like-minded cineastes.  It’s the type of film one can only hope to be in store for when watching something new.  Something vibrant and alive with the possibilities of cinema.  

Note: The HK Cut was reviewed above. 

The Transfer

The all-new 2K Restoration in the original 2.39:1 Aspect Ratio is a solid representation of the film.  The Transfer is decent.  The materials definitely have some age on them in moments, especially during the opening 15 minutes.  Nothing bad, no scratches or dirt, the image looks a little well-worn.  Though once we’re through that first reel the transfer shines literally looking like something that was filmed just a few months ago.  The transfer does do a magnificent job of feeling inherently film-like rather than something that’s been digitally cleaned up leaving no filmic qualities.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng and Director Ronny Yu (HK Cut)
  • Supplementary Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng (HK Cut)
  • Audio Commentary with Stephan Hammond (Export Cut)
  • Archive Interview with Chow Yun-Fat
  • Two Archive interviews with Leung Kar-Yan
  • Archive Interview with Ronny Yu
  • ‘That Phat Samurai Guy’ Interviews Ronny Yu
  • Original Hong Kong Trailer
  • Stills Gallery

The first of three Audio commentaries is with Frank Djeng and Director Ronny Yu on the HK Cut of the film.  Some of the details include the multiple titles it has been released under; the box office results in HK; the long extended production period and locations they used; how he came to direct the film; Yu’s influences being more western (literally) – from the Wild Bunch and other various Westerns; a draft of the script that he wrote that was rejected for being too dark; how this differed from his first two films and the lack of control he had during the production; the motivations from the studio that he didn’t realize that was at play; how much he had to negotiate to get his style into the film – which leads to a great conversation about working with Jet Li on Fearless; the story behind the 4 cinematographers that worked on the 10 month long production; the difficulties Yu and his team had with the action stunt team – including the story behind Cherie Cheng broke her foot; the two things that Yu refused to compromise on – the casting of Chow Yun-fat and shooting the ice-skating action scene the way he wanted to shoot it; a great story about having a meeting with Raymond Chow; and much more.  This track is great with Ronnie Yu is very transparent about just how difficult of a production it was. Djeng guides the conversation throughout adding context whenever needed.  

The second of three is a Supplementary Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng on the HK Cut of the film is more of what you’ve come to expect from Djeng’s track and even admits that he let Yu on his other track do most of the talking.  Some of the details include the literal translation of the original Cantonese title; the full run down of the various titles that it was known by; a larger discussion of the production companies involved with the film; a historical context where the film takes place – including a reference to The Last Emperor; a larger discussion of the Yuen family who were a large part of this film including Yuen Woo-ping; a larger discussion of actor/star Leung Kar-Yan – including that he never had formal training as a martial arts and his amazing talent as a mimic; a larger discussion of the early career of Chow Yun-fat – how he (rare for an actor) dubbed his own voice, the reasons why his early film work wasn’t popular, etc.; a larger discussion about the action scenes and the action choreographers and action directors (some who were producers) that worked to accomplish them – including the standout ice skating pirate set piece; discussion throughout the commentary track about the various actors and their work here and throughout their career – keep your notes app open you’ll want to write some of the films down; and much more. Djeng’s track is another informative, entertaining listen.  

The final of the three tracks is an Audio Commentary with Stephan Hammond on the Export Cut of the film begins with a discussion of Raymond Chow and Woo-ping who produced and oversaw the production.  Some of the details include a discussion of the history of the era that the film takes place in; a discussion of the Yuen family – including Woo-ping and Yuen Yat-chor; the style of HK action film and how they get right into the action; a discussion about melding of guns and swords in martial arts movies – or how they don’t; a discussion about the career and work of Chow Yun-fat; the look and style of Ronnie Yu both here and other films; and much more.  Hammond’s archival commentary track is a relaxed affair with some great information dolled out that wasn’t in either of the commentary tracks. 

Archive Interview with Chow Yun-Fat (7:16) – The interview begins with Chow Yun-Fat beginning with how he got his start in TV and worked for 14 years before being cast in A Better Tomorrow which led to Superstardom.  Some of the other details include working with John Woo; how he brings a character to life; working in HK viruses working in the West; and much more.  

Archive interview with Leung Kar-Yan 1 (7:43) – The interview with star Lueng Kar-Yan begins with the difficult shooting conditions during the 4-month shoot.  Some of the other details include shooting in Korea and the diets and how they differed and created issues; working with Chow Yun-Fat; working with Cherie Cheung – and the accident she had; working with Ronnie Yu – and how his Western education informed his direction; how Knockabout changed his acting style; and much more.  Cantonese with English Subtitles. 

Archive interview with Leung Kar-Yan 2 (9:19) – begins with a discussion of how Chang Cheng and the Shaw Brothers kickstarted his career in the 1970s.  Some of the other details include a discussion of why Wing Chung is the best martial arts style for film; working with Sammo Hung – as a director and actor; the differences between filming in Twain and Hong Kong; what he loves about making action films; and much more.  Cantonese with English Subtitles.

Archive Interview with Ronny Yu (8:11) – The interview with the director begins with him discussing his love of Westerns and how the Pony Express was similar to the profession in The Postman Fights Back.  Some of the other details include his excitement with working with Chow Yun-Fat who was a TV Star at the time; filming in Korea and the difficulties of filming at the time – including a funny anecdote about the pony that was prominently featured in the first half of the film; working with Chow Yun-fat; his favorite fight scene; and much more.  Cantonese with English Subtitles. 

‘That Phat Samurai Guy’ Interviews Ronny Yu (12:38) – in this Zoom interview with Preston (Phat Samurai Guy), Frank Djeng, and director Ronnie Yu.  Some of the details include his favorite films (which include The Magnificent Seven); his early work and getting started in the HK film industry; a discussion about The Postman Fights Back – including a discussion of how long the ice skating action scene took to produce, the shooting conditions in Korea; and much more.  

Original Hong Kong Trailer (3:17) – in Cantonese with English Subtitles. 

Stills Gallery (2:07) – The 25-image gallery consists of poster art, production stills, and behind-the-scenes photos that play automatically as the score from the film plays.  One can pause the still but there is no way to navigate the still gallery.  

The Final Thought 

The Postman Fights Back is a true undiscovered classic.  88 Films has given it all the bells and whistles.  Highest Possible Recommendations!!! 

88 Films’ Blu-Ray edition of The Postman Fights Back is out September 12th

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