Before writer/director Ronny Yu would direct the extraordinary Fearless (2006), the hilarious Freddy vs. Jason (2003), and (arguably) franchise rejuvenating Bride of Chucky (1998), Yu released various Hong Kong (HK) pictures, including The Postman Fights Back for Golden Harvest in 1982. The film featured Leung Kar-yan (Ip Man 3) in the lead, with support from frequent HK cinema performers Eddy Ko (The Martian), Fan Mei-sheng (Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky), Yuen Yat-Choh (In the Line of Duty 4), and the then-lesser-known Chow Yun-fat (Hard Boiled) and, now, 88 Films presents The Postman Fights Back (巡城馬) in a 2K restoration with two cuts of the film, commentary tracks, legacy materials, and special packaging.
Mail courier Ma (Leung) is content working his long, several-month route to deliver mail to and from his village; however, upon finding out that the residents may no longer be able to afford his salary, he reluctantly agrees to join a secret mission. Joined by Fu Jun (Chow), Bu (Fan), and Yao Jie (Yuen), this mission has the four men take four boxes to a hidden rebel leader. Along the way, loyalties are tested, blood is shed, and Ma will have to finally take a stand for what he believes in.
Coming to The Postman Fights Back so late after its release is fascinating as one can see the influence it had on later stories in popular culture. In particular, there’re two sequences set in the woods and the spacing of the trees appears to be endless. Fans of the video game series Mortal Kombat, a series that first released in 1992 and owes an enormous debt to martial arts cinema, are going to recognize this as the in-game level known as “the endless forest,” recreated in the 1995 live-action Mortal Kombat. This may seem like a strange way in for a film like this, but it’s important to recognize that nothing is created in a vacuum and The Postman Fights Back is likely the inspiration for that level. Rumor has it that the character of Sindel from Mortal Kombat 3 gets her character design from Yu’s The Bride with White Hair (1993), so it’s not such a strange supposition. The film itself doesn’t involve interdimensional fighting, but there’s plenty of deadly combat, ninjas, martial arts, gun fire, and questioning of morality. (It’s easy to forget that Mortal Kombat actually has a story dealing with a lot of this, but it does. And this is the last MK reference.) Specifically, Ma does his best to remain apolitical, going so far as to not get involved when he observes Yao Jie on the run from some men who want to kill him. Later, it’s going to take the betrayal of several people and unnecessary deaths of those he knows in order to get him to take action, and, once he does, it’s as if a lion has been let loose. Leung himself is a martial arts staple, having worked on films like Five Shaolin Masters (1974), Enter the Fat Dragon (1978), Warriors Two (1978), Tiger Cage (1988), and Ip Man 3 (2016), so seeing him throw down is one of the major features of Postman, especially when Ma gets pushed to his brink. This restoration is advertised as a Chow Yun-fat film and, yes, he’s in it, but his role is not as large or as significant to the overall plot as Leung’s. Instead, Chow’s Fu Jun is there to back up Ma when necessary and to add a few extra fights that are separate from the larger story. Ultimately, what makes The Postman Fights Back moving isn’t the fisticuffs or gunplay, but the assertion that rebellions are fought and won by a populace who is willing to stand up to violence and injustice. Apathy will only lend to ruin.
Unfortunately there’s no information included with the release or with the press notes to indicate how the 2K restoration was completed, but, having watched the Hong Kong cut with the original Cantonese mono track, there’s good reason to be happy about this. In the scenes with greenery, there’s a vibrancy and liveliness, suggestive of life trying to survive in a harsh environment. In the sequences with snow or characters wearing white, there’s a brightness, but not blindingly so, that conveys a starkness in nature (snow scenes) and innocence (in the clothing), and even vulnerability (in the scene in which Eddy Ko’s Hsiu is stripped of his black outfit and is left in an all-white garb, the same kind that was highlighted previously before several innocence were murdered). His character is far from innocent, but the correlation is worth noting, especially as it comes before he’s stabbed by Ma and then (hilariously) exploded. There’s a little bit of artifacting in some scenes, but nothing that’s unexpected from a film of this age. The audio is also clear and inviting, despite being a monoaural track. However, there is an option with the Export Cut to enjoy a new English 5.1 DTS-HD MA track, if you’d rather get the most out of your home theater. Personally, if I’m experiencing a film for the first time, I go with the version that would’ve played natively, which is why I opted to only review the HK Cut.
Like with other home releases, limited edition or otherwise, 88 Films still treats it like a high-profile edition with a heavy-duty double-walled matte finish slipcover, called an O-Ring in the features list, with new artwork by frequent 88 Films collaborator Sean Longmore (recently Taxi Hunter and Magic Cop). The weight to the 88 Films slipcovers is always a plus compared to U.S. slipcovers as they feel like they can protect the disc case and not just look good. As appears to be standard with 88 Films, the outer liner features the same design as the slipcover, while the reverse showcases the original Hong Kong poster. As with prior releases, the disc case is black-tinted clear case so that you can see the reverse liner when the case is opened. Additionally, inside is a double-sided foldout poster featuring the original HK art on one side and Longmore’s design on the other. Finally, along with both cuts of the film, there are three different commentary tracks, one with frequent 88 Films collaborator Frank Djeng and Yu (HK Cut), one with Djeng solo (HK Cut), and one with Stephan Hammond solo (Export Cut). As this is a restoration, the good stuff doesn’t end there as there are also five different additional interviews: two with Yu, one with Chow, and two with Leung. So if you want the deep dive on The Postman Fights Back, you’re going to get it.
If you’re looking to expand what you know of HK cinema, The Postman Fights Back is a solid entry point. If this is a first-time watch, don’t let the art fool you, it’s not wall-to-wall action, but you’re going to feel it. It’s more brooding than action-packed, making the punches land harder, the twists spiral more tightly, and the emotions run deeper. Everything has a cost, especially indifference, and Yu’s film explores this within the scope of country-wide politics, characterized by distinguished members of HK action and drama.
The Postman Fights Back Special Features:
- Double Walled Matt Finish O-Ring featuring new artwork by Sean Longmore
- Double-sided foldout poster
- Brand New 2K Restoration in 2.39:1 Aspect Ratio
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray™ presentation
- Hong Kong Cut featuring Original Cantonese Mono with English Subtitles
- Export Cut featuring English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English Mono with Alternate Score
- 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 with Ronny Yu
- ‘That Phat Samurai Guy’ Interviews Ronny Yu
- Original Hong Kong Trailer
- Stills Gallery
- Reversible cover with new artwork by Sean Longmore and original HK Poster Art
Available on Blu-ray September 12th, 2023.
This piece was written during the SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.