Written by: Carroll Jenkins on February 23rd, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1989
Director: Sammo Hung
Writers: Barry Wong, Gai Chi Yuen
Cast: Sammo Hung, Nina Li, Yuet Suen, Max Mok, Fennie Yuenciana Paluzzi, Richard Jaeckel, Bud Widom, Ted Gunther, David Yorston, Robert Dunham
DVD Release Date: December 8th, 2015
Approximate Running Time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Cantonese
Subtitles: English SDH
DVD Release: Warner Archive
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $21.99
Synopsis: Four [male] friends are pedicab drivers; one is married with children, one just pays as he goes, while the other two fall in love [with girls]. Complications ensue for all.
This is quite definitely a high profile ‘A’ list film as can be gleamed from the huge amount of star power incorporated. This Sammo Hung project from 1989 arguably represents his last important work from his golden age as director, star, and martial artist. Starting with his first directorial effort The Iron-Fisted Monk (’77), continuing with Prodigal Son (’81), and winding down with Pedicab Driver (’89), all three represent important milestones and exhibit both similarities and differences. All combine humor, brutal oppression of innocents and the resulting tragic occurrences with thrilling martial arts. Iron-Fisted Monk was classic old-school featuring Hung’s lightning quick martial art techniques. Prodigal Son is arguably his finest achievement and best blend of storytelling, movie making, action, and pathos. Pedicab Driver is a fond farewell to the old school martial arts film.
It’s primarily the presentation of the action scenes that sets the latter apart from it’s predecessors. Works on a dramatic level, but the constant reliance on fast-mo, slow-mo, backwards-mo, wire work, quick cuts and edits make this a satisfying but not completely compelling action revenge soap opera. Highly entertaining, but I’d watch the prior films first in order to consider this one in context.
This has long been a seriously neglected title on home video, and expectations were rather tepid given the prior history of MOD DVD-R releases. Yes, it is barebones but does boast a very nice anamorphic widescreen image. Now, well, bust my buttons, it features the original Cantonese language track AND removable subtitles [with no English dub track]. So the MOD production technology DOES enable optional subtitles – I’ve been making that observation / complaint regarding virtually every MOD release I’ve reviewed to date, so where’s the excuse now, you money grubbing cheapskate corporations? [Just kidding, there, sort of.] The subtitle translation does exhibit more that a little cultural extrapolation as though much of the dialog had been filtered through a US Urban slang dictionary (meaning – cheap, vulgar, crass).
This release is important in and of itself as it presents a previously unavailable high quality feature, albeit at the typically exorbitant MOD retail price point. Beyond that it represents the turning point of a consumer revolution because we can now expect 1) more foreign language titles to come, and 2) all future MOD releases to have removable English subtitles. Or maybe not. What was that, ummm, sorry I didn’t get that, let me replay it again . . .