Top positive review
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"I'm drunk with inner strength!"
on April 8, 2005
There's any number of reason to like international film star Jackie Chan...his superior athletic ability, infectious sense of humor, personable charm, but I think the one element that endears him to me is his willingness to put himself in the position of serious physical harm in order to entertain the audience. Sure there are attempts to minimize the risks to some degree (meticulous planning and repetitive practicing), and given Chan's incredible physical prowess he's less likely to suffer harm than say I would trying to do half the things he does, but despite these factors, there is still the notion that with many of his stunts, particularly in his later films, he's always about a hair away from killing himself. Anyway, directed by Woo-ping Yuen, who would later choreograph action scenes for the Matix and Kill Bill films, Drunken Master (1978) aka Jui kuen stars Jackie Chan (listed in the credits as Jacky) and Siu Tien Yuen (the director's father).
The film begins as an assassin named Thunderleg, Master of the Devil's Kick, searching out his most recent target in that of The Champion of the Four Door Fist (not all, but a lot of the characters have titles like this). He finds him, a battle ensues, and one is left standing. We then cut to a scene featuring students practicing martial arts in a school. It's here we meet one of the pupils named Wong Fei-Hung (Chan), whose father actually runs the school. Wong appears fairly adept (after showing up one of the teachers), but lacks the discipline and humility to achieve beyond his current skills, which becomes obvious to his father after a series of incidents involving a local bully, among others. This leads Wong's father to request another to assume training of Wong in that of an older man who's rumored to be incredibly difficult and completely sadistic. Wong decides to run away, but ends up meeting his new teacher (Siu Tien Yuen), a master of the 8 Drunken Gods fighting styles, after an altercation at a restaurant. Wong begins his training with his new master, but soon runs off, as it's too difficult. This sets up a chance meeting between Thunderleg and Wong were Wong gets the thrashing of a lifetime and ends up returning to the Drunken Master, realizing his own skills are pitiful. This leads into a lengthy set of training sequences eventually leading to the Master teaching Wong the secret fighting tactics of the 8 Drunken Gods. As Wong's training is completed, we find out a contract has been taken out on his father, one to be fulfilled by Thunderleg, so now Wong must put his training to the test in the fight of his life (or death).
I think I should mention, as a number of reviewers have brought it up, something about the partial English dubbing within the film. The copy I received a little while ago has a little sticker on the back of the DVD case stating something in the way of `English substituted in some areas where original dialog track lost'. The effect is that when you're watching the film with the original Cantonese audio track, using English subtitles, there are scenes where the characters switch from Cantonese to really goofy sounding voices speaking English. This happens about three or four times, and it is a little annoying as it tended to draw me out of the film. I would have preferred that, if some of the original audio were lost, a re-recording in the same language as the original dialog...but whatever...now on to the film. The movie is crammed with excellent wall-to-wall fight scenes. There are momentary lapses devoted to working on the plot, but these quickly pass resulting in more fight sequences. I think my favorite sequence, besides the lengthy one at the end, featured Siu Tien Yuen in the restaurant, smacking assailants with a dishrag. Not only was it really funny, but almost hypnotic as he twirled that towel around before rat tailing someone in the face (in case you're not familiar, `rat tailing' means taking a wet towel, twisting it up, and snapping it at poor individual). Can anyone tell me what was up with that teacher Chan's character beats up on near the beginning? The guy had this mole on his face, one that had this set of really long hairs emanating from it, and the guy could often be seen playing with the hair, twirling it with his fingers...it was pretty disgusting. And what was the deal with that waiter from the restaurant? Was that the biggest set of buckteeth you've ever seen? I suppose these were some of what made up the comedic element of this film, but they weren't all that funny. What was funny was the scene where Chan's character is trying to learn the drunken fighting style of the lone woman god, doing so in a mocking fashion as he thought it was too effeminate. Another concept I found really funny was the whole notion of fighting styles based of being intoxicated, and the fact Wong's teacher was drunk throughout most of the film. The choreography in the fighting scenes is really spectacular as Chan not only displays that psuedo comic fighting style he's famous for, but also a lot of serious chop socky. Don't expect to see Chan doing any large scale, over the top stunts like leaping off building, as seen in his later films, but do expect lots of close up, smacky smacky action (he also takes the beating like no one I've ever seen).
The picture on this DVD is very good (some cropping), presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, enhanced for 16 X 9 TVs. The monaural audio is decent, but certainly nothing to brag about. Special features include a commentary track including Hong Kong film expert Ric Meyers and Jeff Yang, a co-author of Chan's autobiography. Also included are trailers for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Time and Tide (2000).