An Asian mix of spaghetti western and all-star action comedy in the vein of IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963), THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS is a monumental delight from start to finish. This 1986 action vehicle premiered on US home video in 1997.
In the desert town of Hanshui, local security chief Jook Bo (Eric Tsang) and his cronies start a fire as diversion while they loot the bank, planning to escape by hopping aboard the nearby express train from Shanghai. Meanwhile on board the train are three Samurai with a Chinese treasure map
they're spiriting away to Japan, as well as the leaders of a vicious bandit gang bent on obtaining the map. All plans are undermined however by outlaw Chin Fong-Tin (Sammo Hung), who left Hanshui years ago under shady circumstances but has now returned with a scheme to revive the dying town's
fortune. He blows up the railroad tracks, forcing the train to stop so the wealthy passengers will spend their money in the local establishments--not least of all on Chin's bevy of travelling prostitutes, a sweet-hearted bunch including Chin's sort-of-girlfriend Sylvia (Olivia Cheng).
While the gang-leaders send for their men to rendezvous in Hanshui, Chin is arrested by a CIA agent who has been tracking him for some time, with the help of Fire Captain Tsao Cheuk Kin (Yuen Biao), the newly elected chief of security. Chin's women break him out, only to be locked up themselves.
But Chin has a change of heart about leaving Sylvia behind and returns to town, discovering it ravaged by the bandit gang. Helping the lawmen, bank robbers, and prostitutes to escape from jail, Chin joins them in beating the bandits into submission, afterward battling the Japanese and rescuing the
Starring a virtual who's who of Hong Kong action stars from the seventies and eighties, THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS surprisingly holds back on most of the brawling until the final blowout quarter hour. Instead the emphasis is on comedy, both subtle and slapstick, verbal and wildly physical. A few of
the in-jokes may be lost on Western viewers, and some of the subplots slow things a tad (as in the central bedroom farce with mistaken suitors and criminals hiding in every cupboard and cranny), but nothing's allowed to drag on too long. With a rousing musical score, the final conflict once it
comes is a stunning array of nonstop acrobatic action that ranks among the most dynamic ever put on film.
Filmed in Canada, Thailand, Hong Kong and Macao on a hefty budget, with the town of Hanshui built entirely from scratch, MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS was not the expected runaway hit in its native territory, although Western audiences have embraced it as a classic. Reputedly Jackie Chan was approached by
his childhood friend Hung to appear in the film but declined, leading to bad feelings between the two. His presence would have added box-office clout, but could hardly have improved the ensemble mayhem, which includes Yukari Oshima's first Hong Kong role and another in a series of breakout early
roles for Cynthia Rothrock. The dubbed version of the film is titled SHANGHAI EXPRESS; it has alternate character names and several minutes of footage cut, all of it comedy or exposition. (Violence, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1986
- Rating: NR
- Review: An Asian mix of spaghetti western and all-star action comedy in the vein of IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963), THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS is a monumental delight from start to finish. This 1986 action vehicle premiered on US home video in 1997. In the… (more)