The Legend of Drunken Master

drunken-master-poster“Drinking gives Herculean strength!”

The Scoop: 1994 R, directed by Chia-Liang Liu and starring Jackie Chan, Lung Ti, Anita Mui, and Felix Wong

Tagline: Don’t Cross His Path When He’s Drunk!

Summary Capsule: Drunken boxing master fights to save small Chinese town from trouble

Justin’s Rating: Jackie is my alter ego

Justin’s Review: There is nothing about Jackie Chan that I do not love. Not only is he a kick-ass martial artist and does his own stunts, but the man is seriously funny in a big way. As much as I love other martial arts flicks, none of them combine both action and comedy to keep me captivated as some of Jackie’s endevours. I’ve heard that Legend of Drunken Master was considered one of his best, and now I’m here to say… it probably is. Of course, I’m in love with every new Jackie movie that comes out.

Wong Fei-hong (Chan) is a mischief-loving Chinaman, who studies martial arts under the tutelage of his dour father, and pulls off some fancy scams with the help of his increasingly wacked-out stepmom. Mishaps happen, and Wong Fei-hong ends up in the possession of a jade stone thing. Now this being a martial arts fantasy, I had deep hopes that the stone would grant him superpowers, or transform into that deadly box from Hellraiser, or sprout a hologram instructing Wong Fei-hong where to find the Fortress of Solitude. No such luck – it’s just a stone. It sits, it looks pretty, it makes a nice paperweight. Whoopee. But it’s theft from thieves starts a minor gang war in Wong Fei-hong’s town, between him, his friends, and this weird guy who shows up and gets a hatchet in the back vs. a bunch of dweebs from an embassy. It’s all a large excuse for fight sequences and slapstick comedy, like Three Stooges meet the Karate Kid part II.

Comedy first. Even with English dubbing, this movie is incredibly spankin’ hilarious. Not only is Chan hysterical in his wide-eyed franticism, but I found that his stepmom stole every scene she was in. I’ve never seen such a cheerfully manipulative woman like her before, pratfalling and bursting into tears on cue to save Wong Fei-hong trouble. Plus, when she breaks out the Kung-Fu, you just know this isn’t a mom to mess with. Comedy is also sprinkled into the fight sequences, which I appreciate. Hits and kicks and flips get a bit old after a while (and some of these fight sequences are long), so I appreciate small bits like Chan turning his mouth into a flamethrower, or jumping into the middle of a table (not on the table, IN the table), which is surrounded by thirty bad guys. Speaking of which, the tea house fight (which is a martial arts staple, seen in other films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) consists of two good guys holding off hordes and hordes of baddies, which is ridiculous in concept, but they manage to come up with some fun ways to give the good guys an advantage.

The whole reason why this film stands out above other Chan features is that his character is a master of the sacred art of Drunken Boxing. And to be really, really good at it, he has to (yup) get drunk. Then he’s basically invincible. The weaving, bobbing, joint-dislocating style is both funny and amazing to watch – you’re always convinced he’s going to fall down, but a quick turn and a baddie goes flying through the air after a kick he didn’t see coming. He really only gets smashed and fights with Drunken Boxing in two scenes, but they’re both quite memorable. The only downside of these scenes is that some large guy with a weekend paycheck will assume that a few Coors Light will render him the Martial Arts Master of Paul’s Podunk Pub. And then it’ll just get embarrassing.

The Legend of Drunken Master kept the pace and laughs and fights coming at my brain’s entertainment lobe, and it was much appeased. Jackie Chan, I -hic- salute you.

Two seconds too late, Jackie realizes he can't fly.

Two seconds too late, Jackie realizes he can’t fly.

Intermission!

  • This movie is a bit confusing to place chronologically, due to a few factors. First of all, it’s both a sequel and a remake of Jackie Chan’s 1978 film Drunken Master (which brought him into the movie spotlight). Other English names for this film are Drunken Fist II and Drunken Master II. It was released in 1994, but never quite made it to the states until its re-release in 2000 under the name The Legend of Drunken Master. Coming back to a role he played 15 years earlier, Jackie is playing a young man roughly half his age (he was 40 when he made this) in this film.
  • Director Chia-Liang Liu and star Jackie Chan clashed during filming, with Lau wanting to include hidden-wire stunts. Lau eventually left the film, with Chan taking over as director.
  • Drunken Boxing is an enigma in Chinese martial arts. There is no set “style” of Drunken Boxing Kung Fu, and most schools that teach this have their own variation. The concept behind Drunken Boxing is to move as if you were half-drunk, requiring extreme flexibility in the joints. The key to this style is to release powerful moves from awkward positions. Also, the strange stances serve to throw one’s opponent off-balance. Typically, Drunken Boxing is more of a show style than a practical fighting one.
  • Apparently being burned in multiple fires makes your clothes whiter
  • Hatchet in the back! How fun!
  • Stay tuned for the end credits, which houses all the fight outtakes from the film – a Jackie staple
  • The seven-minute fight at the end of the film took nearly four months to shoot. Chan indicated that one day’s filming typically produces three seconds of usable film.
  • After being set on fire by Fei-hung, foreman Henry is played by director Chia-Liang Liu in disguise.
  • Opening credits list Jackie Chan as “His stuntperson’s double”.
  • You can see in the end credits that Jackie was burned by coals, which have since left him scarred

Groovy Quotes

Friend: You cannot go out in your condition.
Stepmom: What condition? I’m pregnant.

Wong Kei-ying: Water floats, but also capsizes boats.

Wong Fei-hong: Drinking gives Herculean strength!

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Jackie Chan’s Who Am I?
  • Jackie Chan’s First Strike
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