Review: The Postman Fights Back (1981)

There was a time in the mid-90s when everything coming out of Hong Kong was cool and exciting. Guns were blazing while gangsters oozed charm; supernatural heroes were flying for the sake of the world while others performed death-defying stunts merely for our sakes, and we were more than appreciative. Every local release was hired from the video store down the road followed by many a bruise and abrasion with the occasional sprain – though no bones were broken.

Looking back onto that back catalogue (ah, the benefits of a disposable income) a lot of them still hold up to scrutiny today. Yet Postman Fights Back was one that fell through the cracks. Having not heard of it at all before seeing it, the question of why a film such as this would be so obscure until now lingers despite seeing a young Chow Yun Fat on the cover. Admittedly part of this doubt exists as along with Mr Chow’s face on the cover art, there is also what looks like a white ninja.

That’s right, a white ninja – what one normally associates with B to Z grade American martial arts films out of the 80s.

Still, film with Chow Yun Fat and directed by Raymond Chow, the man who brought us Bride with White Hair (not to mention the upcoming Jet Li kung fu Fearless), there must be some merit to the film.

This, of course, is true, because the film is not really a complete waste of time. But then it’s not particularly good either. When I mentioned the white ninja earlier, it was important because it really does set the level of expectation for the film. A folk tale without a good storyteller ends up being kind of hokey – which is exactly how Postman Strikes Back feels. There is simply no engagement with the characters and the plot relies upon a bit of knowledge of the period to get an instant grasp of what exactly is going on. Even then, putting the plot elements together is an afterthought as you try to puzzle out the motives for the current action scene.

The action scenes are where Postman Strike Back saves itself from a fiery death, but even then, it’s really more significant for its contextual value than for any amazing stunts or choreography. Like how the action in Young Master seemed stilted but showed so much potential, the action out of Postman is of the ilk that does eventually become standard action film fare (note, again: white ninja).

Really, Postman Strikes Back is for those desiring a sense of completion, or those who enjoy seeing the fossilised bones of monkeys – not particularly interesting by themselves, but certainly gives you a reminder that the overnight success of Hong Kong cinema’s heyday had its origins before people actually started taking notice.

6.5 modern action film cliches out of 10.
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