Cinophile: Wheels On Meals

3 min read

Everyone knows the name of Jackie Chan. He is without question the most famous martial arts actor since Bruce Lee. And like Lee, his style of movie has an undeniable signature to it. But there is a part of the Chan mythos that cannot be uncoiled from two other names. And this is the best movie that trio ever made.

Jacky Chan, Sammo Hung and Biao Yuen performed together as youngsters in the famous Peking Opera School. They would share the stage in two other films, both also big hits. In China, Hung is regarded in even a higher light than Chan. While Chan has the nickname “Dai Goh” (Big Brother), Hung is referred to as “Dai Goh Dai” (Big Big Brother), a nod to him being the oldest. Though Yuen didn’t follow this trend, ‘Biao Yeun’ is actually his stage name – handed to him still a kid, it means “Little Tiger”. Chan has openly praised Yeun’s acrobatic talent.

In the world of martial arts movies, Sammo Hung is a big name – in the right circles as big as Chan. And the two have enjoyed a long friendship with many collaborations. But fans sometimes forget the third musketeer, Biao Yuen. He played a leading role in Chan’s big directorial hit Project A, as well as the blockbuster Dragons Forever, directed by Hung – both starring all three. Some hardcore fans even argue that his talents outstrip his two peers. Wheels On Meals (aka. Spartan X) certainly puts weight behind that… or maybe it doesn’t. The problem is that everyone in this is awesome.

The title Wheels On Meals may seem odd – and it is. The film was originally named the more obvious Meals On Wheels. But the movie studio had suffered three flops in a row, each of which started with the letter ‘M’. So the title was changed to not jinx the film.

Two cousins run a fast food stand in Barcelona. They both encounter the same woman and, smitten, compete for her affections. This is fortuitous for the damsel, as a gang of criminals also appear to be after her. So two love-struck kung fu masters come in handy. Then a detective – any excuse for Hung to don his trademark fedora and bow tie – informs the pair that the woman is a wealthy heiress. She is kidnapped and the trio unleash an extraordinary level of whupass upon the third act to save her. Which is something, given they’ve been beating up bad guys or casually flaunting their acrobatic genius since the opening credits.

The final fight scene between Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and Chan is considered one of the best in the genre. Urquidez would repeat this performance as the main combat antagonist in Dragons Forever and later do stunts and fight consultation for movies like Roadhouse, Street Fighter and Spider-Man. A highly decorated martial artist, he’s also John Cusack’s kick boxing trainer and appeared in films like Grosse Point Blank and 1408.

Though Wheels On Meals is not as stunt heavy as Chan’s films, it shows Hung’s talent for directing fighting sequences and acrobatic showcases. While Chan usually takes center stage in such collaborations, the load feels much more even across the three actors. Still, he is the lead and as a reward this film’s final fight is hands-down one of Chan’s best. But everyone, including the bad guys, are firing on all cylinders – particularly Yuen. And they are all kung fu fighting. Awesome.



Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: January 13, 2014


A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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