The Legend of Drunken Master

1994 kung-fu movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Posters have invaded China, and folks are panicking. They call on Jackie Chan to save the day, and [Spoiler Alert! Although the poster to the left actually spoils it all anyway.] he uses his drunken fighter style to punch holes in the evil posters. Comically.

I didn't think much of Jackie Chan before I saw this movie. I had seen a couple fistfuls of kung-fu flicks and liked the genre, and everything I knew about Jackie Chan--his general reputation, the small sampling of his work that I'd seen--made me assume that he was like a kung-fu sell-out or something, too popular or new school to be worth my time. The Legend of Drunken Master floored me when I first saw it, and the terrifically creative and acrobatic fight scenes still floor me today. The plot of this one, along with some embarrassing dubbing and some less-than-stellar acting, isn't anything to write home about. Luckily, the bulk of this is made up of those action sequences. The first, mostly taking place beneath a train, shows off rapid movements and some choreography that utilizes every square inch of that confined space. But the fight scenes just get better and better. A lengthy climax in a factory is fast and furious and eye-popping, featuring a guy with legs that moved so quickly and rubbery that I thought for sure they were computer-generated legs. But I think I like the two fight scenes in the middle--one where the character first demonstrates his drunken style to beat down a collective of goons and another where he and a partner take on a ton of dudes with axes--even better. Jackie Chan's known for his stunts, his fluid movements, and his use of humor and props. Here, at nearly forty, Chan's at the top of his game, and if you're a fan of kung-fu movies at all, there are several action sequences that will have you reaching for the rewind button so that you can see them again. They're good enough to help you forgive all the attempts at humor that fall completely flat. The original Drunken Master movie from 1978 is also worth watching, by the way. Compared to this version, it's more traditional and not nearly as flashy, but it's still a solid martial arts flick with that white-haired old guy Siu Tien Yuen who I really like.

No comments: