Millionaires Express (also known as Shanghai Express in some territories) is a 1986 Hong Kong Martial Arts Movie that combines elements of Spaghetti Western and samurai films, all rolled in one entertaining 90-minute package. Directed by Sammo Hung, the film boasts what is probably the largest All-Star Cast of its time (as seen in that poster), including Sammo's long-time collaborator Yuen Biao, popular Canto-pop singer Kenny Bee, comedians Eric Tsang and Ng Man-tat, Japan's leading Action Girl Yukari Oshima, and loads and loads of leading stars of late-80s Hong Kong cinema at the time.
Set in the 1930s, Ching Fong-tin (Sammo Hung) is a runaway fugitive and small-time criminal who just had a lucky escape from a confrontation from Loi-fook (Kenny Bee), a government agent sent to capture him. On his way back to his rural hometown of Hanshui. Ching intends to derail the Millionaires' Express, a train full of wealthy passengers, at the nearby train station so that the passengers would stop by the town and perhaps spend some money there to revive its local economy - much to the dismay of the town's local fire rescue chief Tsao (played by Yuen Biao). However, a gang of bandits have set their eyes on the train, intending to rob its passengers and relieve the train of its valuable cargo including a valuable Imperial scroll guarded by three samurai (Yukari Oshima, Yasuaki Kurata, Jang-Lee Hwang).
Action scenes ensues. Loads and loads of action. Explosions, shootouts, martial arts duel, acrobatic stuntmen somersaulting, fight scenes galore. Its super fun.
Sometimes labelled as Shanghai Express, in which case do not confuse this movie with Shanghai Express.
This film provides examples of:
- Acrofatic: Ching Fong-tin, being played by Sammo Hung easily helps.
- Action Girl: The lady samurai and the female bandit leader.
- Ambiguous Time Period: Certain English language versions begin with a caption specifying that it takes place in the 1930s, but this is not present (or at least not translated) in all versions of the film. The presence of a young Wong Fei-hung (who was born in the mid 19th century) and his father as train passengers also make it unclear exactly when the film is intended to be set. On the 2021 Eureka Blu-ray edition, Frank Djeng estimates in his audio commentary that it's set around the 1910s.
- Bound and Gagged: After their initial face-off, Ching manage to subdue Loi and leave him all tied up in the snow. In his underwear.
- The Cameo: Jimmy Wang Yu (of One-Armed Swordsman fame) and Shih Kien (from Enter the Dragon) appears as two passengers on the titular train, where they tried to beat each other up in the dark while the train passes a series of tunnels.
- David vs. Goliath: Invoked when the samurais have to face the bandit leader (played by the imposing Richard Norton). The leader is at least a few feet taller than the samurais, and holds his own even in a 2-vs-1 battle until the lady samurai scores a killing blow (see Groin Attack below).
- Designated Girl Fight: Averted, the movie seemingly sets up a fight between the female bandit leader (Cynthia Rothrock) and the lady samurai (Yukari Oshima). But in the climax, the female bandit ends up fighting Ching while the lady samurai fights the lead bandit (Richard Norton).
- Dual Wield: Ching uses dual batons to beat up bandits when releasing the prisoners. And later in the climax, we have the lady samurai (played by Yukari Oshima) using her katana and a longsword retrieved from a bandit at the same time.
- Enemy Mine: While many of the characters - Ching, Tsao, Loi, the samurais, etc - have different allegiances, when facing the incoming bandit horde they will have to work together.
- Gatling Good: The climax begins with Loi Fook revealing the secret contents of his "package"... a friggin' gattling gun. The next scene had the weapon being mounted on a motorcycle driven by Ching, with Fook in the sidecar firing away wiping out massive numbers of bandits.
- Genre Mashup: Between Hong Kong martial arts, Spaghetti Western, and Samurai movies.
- Groin Attack: Happens more than once during the fight scenes, and also the bandit leader is finally taken down when the lady samurai runs her sword through his crotch.
- Implausible Fencing Powers: In his introductory scene, the samurai leader shows his quick-draw skills by whipping out his katana while meditating… and slicing a housefly that’s bothering him into half.
- Inspector Javert: Loi Fook is determined to have Ching arrested at all costs.
- MacGuffin Melee: The Post-Climax Confrontation revolves around the remaining main characters and the samurai trio fighting over a valuable Imperial scroll.
- Mêlée à Trois: The final 25 minutes of the movie quickly erupts into an all-out anarchic brawl spanning an entire town, between Ching, the samurais, the bandits, and whatever remnants of characters still alive.
- Naked People Are Funny: In the opening scene after getting captured by a group of soldiers, Ching had to perform a striptease wearing a mop as a wig and in his boxers. It was all played for laughs.
- Later on after Ching manage to escape from Loi, he left Loi all tied up in his underwear.
- No Name Given: None given to either of the three samurais, or the two bandit leaders.
- The Oner: In his Establishing Character Moment, Tsao (played by the highly-acrobatic Yuen Biao) does an acrobatic backflip from the roof of a two-storey burning building, land on his feet, and running to the next piece of dialogue all in one take.
- Pineapple Surprise: While attempting to escape from the soldiers in the opening scene, Ching (dressed in drag) pretends to seduce one of them (who had grenades strapped to his belt), then suddenly pulls the pin off the grenades and leaps out a nearby window before the soldiers can react. Cue explosion destroying the entire small cabin the soldiers are gathered.
- Plucky Comic Relief: The minor characters played by Richard Ng and Eric Tsang, who provides some of the funnier moments in the halfway point of the movie (where there's no action).
- Robbing the Dead: In the opening scene, Ching comes across a small band of soldiers lying in the snow, and thinking they were recently killed in battle, proceeds to help himself to their wallets, pocket-watches, and other valuables. And then a trumpet blares, signalling the drill is over, and all the "dead" soldiers gets up...
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Ching and Loi really, really doesn't want to work as a team, but they're forced to when facing off the bandits. Also Ching and Tsao the fire chief aren't on friendly terms either, but once shit hits the fan they put their differences aside.
- Wall Run: The samurai trio does this (especially Yukari Oshima's lady samurai) during fight scenes, as does Tsao during a fire rescue scene.
- We Need a Distraction: While trying to sneak into the now-bandit occupied town for the climax, the Plucky Comic Relief trio did a tapdance outside the town while singing "We're free! We're free! Catch us if you can!" to lure the bandits out.
- What the Fu Are You Doing?: The bandit leader tries making some flashy moves when confronting the samurais in the ending fight, only to receive a kick from one of the samurais.
- Where's the Kaboom?: Ching invokes this when attempting to derail the titular train by blowing up the tracks. He loads the dynamites, steps on the detonator, then wonders where is the ensuing explosion... BOOM!!!
- Would Hit a Girl: Subverted. Ching ends up fighting the female bandit leader and he does manage to defeat her with a punch to the face, but he allows her to simply leave without killing her.