Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Legend Of Drunken Master (1994)

As the years have crept up on him, Jackie Chan has slowed down slightly (though he could still kick my ass in any physical competition without breaking a sweat) and has tried to get involved with different films that don't make quite so many demands on his body. Yet there are many times when you just wish that time would stop and allow Jackie Chan to jump and whirl and punch and kick forever, especially when you catch one of his many, many excellent action movies from his extensive filmography. Movies like Project A, Dragons Forever and Wheels On Meals and many, many others.

Even the earlier Drunken Master is a prime example of Jackie Chan doing what he can do best. Later movies, including those just mentioned above, pile on the stunts and physical prowess to an even greater degree but any one of his earlier films can easily stand as a testament to one of the great physical performers of the last century. Easily.

This movie sees Jackie Chan starring as Wong Fei-Hung, a young man who is skilled in the drunken style of fighting. Basically, as soon as he gets a taste of alcohol he becomes a staggering, sozzled, fighting machine. His skill increases tenfold and he's practically invincible. Unfortunately, this is something frowned upon by his father and so whenever Wong Fei-Hung drinks and kicks ass he gets himself in trouble and brings shame upon the family name. Ling, his stepmother, sees things slightly differently. She thinks that Wong Fei-Hung might just be able to save the day. Even if he has a hangover the day after.

As is usually the case with the better Jackie Chan movies, a lot of the stunts and choreographed fight work here will make your eyes pop out. They are incredible. There's an argument to be made that, before the advancement of the CGI we have today, Jackie Chan was the best special effect available onscreen and it's harder and harder to dismiss that observation as a joke when you see him go through as many acrobatic motions as he does here.

There are others who get to impress with their moves - such as Lung Ti, Anita Mui, Felix Wong, etc - but the best moments come from Jackie Chan, whether they're pure incredible action or great bits of physical comedy.

The screenplay comes from Edward Tang, Man-Ming Tong and Gai Chi Yuen and it does what it needs to do - Chan and co. are placed in peril when they accidentally find themselves in possession of something that doesn't belong to them that is wanted by other people who don't have any real right to it either. Direction comes from Chia-Liang Liu and an uncredited Jackie Chan (who directed the final fight scene after Liu left the film) and hits every beat perfectly. This comes so close to being a perfect action movie, SO close, but the fact that it falls just short of perfection, in my eyes, is a testament to how many great films there are to pick from in this genre.

If you're a fan of martial arts movies then you MUST get this, it's that simple really. Yet another essential viewing choice from the filmography of Mr. Jackie Chan.


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