Film Reviews

The Millionaires’ Express (1986) – Blu-ray Review

The Millionaires’ Express is one of the films created by legendary Hong Kong actor and director Sammo Hung at the height of his directorial career. A wonderful mixture of spaghetti western, slapstick comedy, and some spectacularly executed martial arts sequences, it’s an absolute delight to watch. And it’s now received a new Blu-ray release from Eureka Entertainment that can’t be missed.

The film follows a number of plots and characters, all of which centre around an express train travelling from Shanghai, and a struggling mountain town, and the chaos that ensues when the two come together. In the desert town of Hanshui, a local security chief and his gang of followers set a fire in the town to distract the inhabitants, allowing them to rob the local bank. They flee the scene and plan to get on board the express train to make their getaway.

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The train plays host to a whole slew of odd and interesting characters, including an adulterous man, rival martial artists, and a trio of samurai who are transporting a map that holds the location to valuable Chinese treasures. Also travelling on the train is a group of gangsters who have a plot to steal the map from the Japanese trio, with the help of a group of criminals who will board the train mid-journey.

Back in Hanshui, a local outlaw, played by Sammo Hung, returns to the town after years away. Having realised that his past actions hurt his home town he has a plan to blow up part of the train track, forcing the express train to stop just outside of town. He hopes that this will result in the wealthy passengers having to come to Hanshui and spend their money. When he manages to stop the train, all of these various plans and schemes come to a head in Hanshui, forcing the residents, and most of the passengers, to have to fight against the gang of criminals that come to take over.

To say the plot of The Millionaires’ Express is complex is an understatement. There were times where I was left wondering what was possibly going to happen next, as the various characters and plots intersected with and passed through the other stories to the point where the whole thing felt like it resembled a ball of knotted twine rather than a straightforward narrative. But despite this, I never really felt lost. The characters that inhabit the film are so broad and almost arch that you can always keep track of what’s happening, and even though it was sometimes quite silly it all made sense to each individual story.

For the most part the film plays out like a slapstick comedy, with pretty much every scene having multiple jokes and visual gags in it. There were numerous times when I found myself laughing out loud, and the scene where the adulterous husband gets caught out by his wife and has to come up with an excuse on the spot leads to one of the silliest, but best scenes in the movie.

It’s not all comedy, however, as the film packs in the action. The fights are extremely well choreographed, and I don’t think that there’s a single window or door that isn’t jumped through in the whole film. Actors throw each other around the set, smashing through tables and chairs, jumping and flipping off buildings as if they’re only a few feet high and not three stories tall. One moment that stands out for sheer physical brilliance is when one of the fighters rolls up the bannisters of the stairs mid-fight. The fact that Hung doesn’t just focus on one fight in the climax, but brings together several across the town, all with their own styles and visual flair is nothing short of remarkable.

This new Blu-ray release doesn’t just come with the film, however, as it packs a ton of extra features onto its two discs. People lucky enough to pick up a copy don’t just get one version of the film, but four. There’s the original Hong Kong Theatrical Cut of the film; the Extended version; the English Language version; and the brand new Hybrid Cut, which combines footage from the other version to produce the ‘ultimate’ version of the film, specially made just for this release. As a bonus, all four versions of the film get a beautiful 2K restoration, allowing them to look their best.

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There are also a load of interesting extras to keep you going too, including a full colour booklet that goes into the making of the film; a reversible poster featuring both original and brand new artwork; new feature length commentaries by film experts who bring a ton of insight about the film; and a host of brand new and archival interviews with the various stars of the movie.

The Millionaires’ Express is a wonderfully strange hybrid of slapstick comedy and brilliant martial arts, a film that has a little something for everyone, and one that any collector should absolutely grab whilst they can.

The Millionaires’ Express is out now on Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment.

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