The Legend Of Drunken Master Movie Review

The Legend Of Drunken Master Jackie Chan Poster

The Legend Of Drunken Master (1994)
Director: 
Lau Kar Leung, Jackie Chan (uncredited)
Starring:
Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, Felix Wong and Lung Ti


He’ll do just about any death-defying stunt to please his fans. He hung from a ladder attached to an airborne helicopter, dropped off a clock tower multiple times and even crab walked over burning hot coals.  Not one to rely on digital effects, Jackie Chan performs stunts that are considered far too dangerous or physically impossible for any other lead actor. 

Having never watched Hollywood hit movies like Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon, my newly found appreciation for Jackie Chan comes from discovering the cult classic The Legend of Drunken Master, the follow up to 1978’s Drunken Master.

The Legend of Drunken Master is an entertaining mix of old-school kung fu fighting and good-natured humour. At times, it’s amusingly silly however it’s not without dramatic moments that carry some weight. The fantastic action scenes are the highlight of this movie about an irresponsible young man who learns some hard lessons on his way to becoming a folk hero. 

For a 90’s action movie, the story is expectedly not complex but there’s enough of a framework to hang the fight sequences on.  Set in early 20th century China, Jackie Chan plays Wong Fei-Hung, a young mischievous son of a respected medical practitioner. While waiting to board a train, Fei-Hung avoids paying tax on his father’s ginseng by switching it with another package from a suitcase belonging to a British Consulate official.

The old switcheroo first leads to hilarious situations after Fei-Hung tries to hide the fact that he lost his father’s ginseng but as this plot thread gradually escalates he gets caught up in a civil uprising. Similar to The Monuments Men, there is a message about the value of arts and culture that is conveyed in the second half of the film when Fei-Hung uncovers the consulate’s true motive.

The progression of the story blends well with the action sequences. Jackie Chan’s fight choreography is playful, acrobatic and left a smile on my face. There’s a rhythm and ingenuity to the fighting that’s more like a dance of kicks and punches than a bloody brawl. What makes The Legend Of Drunken Master stand out from many current action movies is it doesn’t overuse fast cutting, making it easy to follow and appreciate the fight scenes.

drunken-master-ii-double-fisted1

It’s hard to believe but Drunken boxing is a real and highly unorthodox style of fighting. Fei-Hung confounds his opponents by clowning around in a drunken stupor and striking from odd positions like while he’s arched over backwards with his feet parallel to each other. As many have noted, the way Fei-Hung guzzles down alcohol to get drunk is similar to how Popeye gets his powers from spinach.

Although the supporting cast are not as well developed, to a certain extent like Fei-Hung they also defy some of the traditional, rigid customs of how characters are typically depicted in Chinese period films. Anita Mui is terrific as the step-mom who can secretly hold her own in a fight and is unexpectedly comical which makes the interplay between her and Fei-Hung a treat to watch.

Drunken Master 2 Anita Mui

While I discussed many interesting things about this movie, I also have some less flattering observations that don’t necessarily take away from my enjoyment but are worth mentioning. Because this movie is made 16 years after the original, Jackie Chan is too old to be playing the same youthful character. Jackie looks like he could be roughly be around the same age as the actor who plays his father.

Jackie Chan does a good job with his own English dubs but the background voices are noticeably Westerners pretending to have an Asian accent. This won’t be an issue for those watching it in Cantonese with subtitles although I’d imagine there still would be some translations issues where the meaning of the original language is lost as is the case with many foreign movies.

Andy Lau in Drunken Master 2

One last caveat that I’ll bring up is that the charismatic screen presence of Hong Kong star Andy Lau is only in a brief cameo. After helping Fei-Hung in an intriguing early scene it set up Andy Lau’s character to be more significant than he was. Unfortunately this potential story line didn’t get developed and is never brought up again. 

With its creative and blistering fast kung fu action, The Legend Of Drunken Master is considered to be one of Jackie Chan’s best movies. Chan’s blend of comedy and martial arts mastery has an gratifying appeal that can cross the language and cultural barrier. For those that enjoy humour along side high-octane fights and are open-minded to English dubbed movies, The Legend Of Drunken Master is well worth checking out.

Are you a fan of Jackie Chan? What are your favorite Jackie Chan movies that you’d recommend?

 

No Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...