Genre: Action | Comedy
Country: Hong Kong
Director: Chia-Liang Liu/Jackie Chan
Stars: Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, Lung Ti
Before corporate Hollywood shanghaied Jackie Chan’s career and ruined it [The Tuxedo, really?], he was known as the undisputed master at combining action and comedy. This hard-hitting, combination knock-out style of entertainment is never more effective than in The Legend of Drunken Master (originally released in Hong Kong under the title Drunken Master II). Although this is a follow-up to Jackie’s 1978 Drunken Master, it’s not a storyline sequel. Really, the only thing the two films have in common is Jackie’s character, Wong Fei Hung; so you don’t need to have seen the first film to understand what’s going on in the second.
The story starts with Wong Fei Hung, his father Dr. Wong Kei Ying (Lung Ti), and their servant Tso (Chi-Kwong Cheung) waiting to board a train home. Wong Fei Hung wants to avoid paying a duty tax on the ginseng his father is bringing back for a client, so he hides the package in the suitcase of an employee of the British consul. Wong Fei Hung runs into trouble when it comes time to retrieve the package…
You know what? We don’t really watch these films for their great plots, all we want are kick-ass fight scenes where Jackie does some cool shit while beating the snot out of some bad guys. So just know that Wong Fei Hung steals back the wrong package and inadvertently gets involved in a corrupt British consulate scheme to smuggle ancient Chinese artifacts out of the country, and wackiness ensues. And there are a bunch of kick-ass fight scenes where Jackie does some cool shit while beating the snot out of some bad guys.
We also don’t really expect a lot of great performances with these kinds of films; as usual Jackie Chan is always charming and, at times, will indeed make you laugh. But there is one unexpected standout performance turned in by Anita Mui, who plays Wong’s step-mother, Ling. She absolutely steals every scene she’s in, and you can’t help but fall in love with her character for the hilarious and endearing way she protects Wong Fei Hung from his sometimes overbearing father.
As with all of Jackie’s films, he performs his own incredible and sometimes extremely dangerous stunts. The climatic fight scene at the film’s end lasts seven minutes and took almost four months to shoot. During the scene Jackie is lit on fire numerous times, and crawls over burning, hot coals…twice! Jackie felt the first take “didn’t have the right rhythm” so he shot it a second time. This poor guy is trying really hard to please you, so the least you could do is watch his film.
Jackie and director Chia-Lang Liu didn’t always see eye-to-eye. One point of contention was in Liu’s filming style where he preferred to use quick tracking shots and slow-motion, which Jackie hated. Their biggest argument was when Liu wanted to use wires during the fight scenes, something Jackie is vehemently against. Liu ended up leaving the production and Jackie (although he is uncredited for doing so) took over directing the final fight scene.
Jackie Chan’s films will never be known for their poignant, dramatic narratives, or spellbinding imagery, but the man sure does know how to entertain. He even sings the theme song over the closing credits. Martial Artist, actor, comedian, singer. Oh, Jackie. Is there no end to your talents? [Actually, yes there is. I really could have done without the singing. But the movie is great fun, you should totally see it!]