Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan) is a mischievous, yet righteous young man, but after a series of incidents, his frustrated father has him disciplined by Beggar So (Siu-Tin Yuen), a Master of dru... Read allWong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan) is a mischievous, yet righteous young man, but after a series of incidents, his frustrated father has him disciplined by Beggar So (Siu-Tin Yuen), a Master of drunken martial arts.Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan) is a mischievous, yet righteous young man, but after a series of incidents, his frustrated father has him disciplined by Beggar So (Siu-Tin Yuen), a Master of drunken martial arts.
I've not given up on modern releases totally but a real death-march of uninspiring films of late has seen me using my DVD rental subscription to get in touch with older films and also genres that do not often show up on my basic TV package. Recently this has seen me getting some old-school martial arts films and of course Drunken Master had to be one of the first to be seen. When watching it, it is important that you keep your genre frame of reference because as a "film" (with no riders or expectations) it could be dismissed as having no substance to speak of - an accusation that I myself level at many blockbusters that offer me nothing to engage with. In this case though one does have to wonder if it matters because in terms of pure entertainment value there is just about sufficient story to pull a basic frame together for an amusing and exciting film.
I say this because the plot doesn't do much other than set up the many fight sequences that the film has and really these are the reason why we are all here. Without exception, these are technically and visually impressive. The physical strength and control of the actors is just as impressive as the choreography and, unlike modern films, the camera sits back so we can see and doesn't get into the close and frantic editing which reveal the actor perhaps could only do one short movement at a time and needed lots of help from the camera. Speaking of camera movement, one of the joys of the film is to see what has now become the genre-defining zooms in on faces and other such clichés.
Speaking of which, the acting also fits this mould as it is the wonderful OTT style of acting, with big hair and exaggerated performances that owe a debt to silent cinema. Chan is not at his funniest here (partly because his character necessitates a degree of arrogance that takes away a little) but he is still very comic and self-effacing in his comedy. He is well supported by Yuen, who is also very skilled and able to do comedy, while Hwang's villain is wonderfully 1970's martial arts and full of camp menace. The support cast features some familiar faces who bring stuff to the table such as the high-kicking Linda Lin and the amusing Dean Shek.
Drunken Master is very much a genre film and those who do not like the conventions of the genre should not be too shocked to find that they don't like it here. However for martial arts fans and the casual viewer, this is a great film with plenty of brilliant action blended with a genial and comic tone that allows it to be solid good fun.
- bob the moo
- Oct 15, 2008