The Millionaires’ Express (12) |Home Ents Review

Dir. Sammo Hung, Hong Kong, 1986, 97 mins, optional English audio or subtitled

Cast: Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Cynthia Rothrock, Rosamund Kwan, Richard Ng

Review by Colin Dibben

Sammo Hung’s homage to the American western is a disjointed affair with some great comic moments in Buster Keaton style. This edition gives fans 4 versions of the film to watch and a host of extras.

Hung plays Ching, a loveable rogue with self-worth issues. He’s a thief, a pimp and an outlaw on the run – from a special agent who chases him, at the film’s beginning, through icy wastes and into the arms of Russian soldiers, who make him strip off and dance with a mop on his head.

Hung returns to his hometown with a bevvy of prostitutes. His leftfield plan is to prove himself a worthy citizen by derailing a train passing through the fly-blown backwater town, a train full of rich people who will then spend their money in the town. I like a good plan.

The underrated Yuen Biao plays Tsao, the good-looking sheriff who tries to stop Ching.

What neither of them know is that an army of bandits, including HK movie regular westerners Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton, also has designs on the train. They want to both rob the passengers and relieve 3 samurai-looking Japanese of a map they have stolen that shows where the terracotta army of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, is buried.

Add to the mix corrupt policemen, a randy deerstalker wearing millionaire, two absconding prisoners and several hookers with hearts of gold … you have a lot to pack into less than 100 minutes of screen time.

This is a much-admired film, but I find it disjointed. The story is not very focused and many of the characters are set up only to disappear in the ensuing mayhem.

Fans will recognise many Sammo Hung regulars, including Rosamund Kwan, Richard Ng and Eric Tsang.

The mayhem itself – the set piece fights and other action sequences – seem a bit lost in the grandeur of the whole film. I was struck by a very simple turn towards the end, where the prisoners use a mattress to trap one of the bandits. But a lot of the grander set pieces, featuring burning buildings and ladders and explosions seem a bit flat in the context.

Partly, this is because of a white-light colouring to the film, which bleaches events slightly and makes the frame feel very heavy, claustrophobic.

The limited edition gives you 4 versions of the film across two Blu-ray discs, all presented from brand new 2K restorations.

The limited edition bonus disc features the English language version of the film originally prepared for the international theatrical release; and a new cut of the film prepared exclusively for this release that combines footage from the original theatrical and extended cuts of the film to present a hypothetical “complete” version.