THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Jackie Chan, Anita
Mui, Ti Lung, Lau Ka Leung, Andy Lau
Director: Lau Ka Leung
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: Jackie Chan Interview
Length: 102 Minutes
Release Date: September 15, 2009
“What does the little skull and crossbones mean?”
The Legend of Drunken Master is indeed something of a legend amongst Jackie Chan’s true fans, who know it better as Drunken Master II. It’s less oriented toward Jackie’s amazing stuntwork and more toward his fighting abilities, but with this movie, he left audiences around the world almost too breathless to cheer with his incredible choreography and 20 minute long fight climax against his real-life bodyguard Ken Lo.
It’s also one of Jackie’s funniest offerings and a shining screen moment for the legendary and late Anita Mui. A beloved pop star in Asia for decades who passed away far too young, her comedic chops are on full display here as she matches the equally legendary Jackie stroke for stroke.
Jackie plays Fei Hung, the son of a respected teacher (Lung) and a self-proclaimed master of the art of drunken boxing, a kung fu style that, at least for this movie, involves imbibing alcohol to the point that the body is fluid, loose, and resistant to pain. His father disapproves, but trouble always seems to follow Fei Hung and his delightfully scheming stepmother (Mui).
The plot, as it is, involves British ambassadors and some Hong Kong bad guys stealing historical artifacts from China and shipping them out of the country, which Fei Hung first becomes wise to when he accidentally ends up with an antique jade seal instead of the ginseng he was trying to smuggle (with hilarious consequences). When the villains try to get it back, it leads to Jackie’s first all out drunken brawl, with booze dutifully provided by stepmother.
With his father’s reputation on the line, and the British Embassy trying to force a deal that would close down daddy’s school, only Fei Hung can save the day, with a little help from his friends…and a drink or two.
You don’t watch Jackie Chan movies for the stories…you watch to see Jackie doing what he does best, and here, he’s arguably never been better as a pure martial artist and fight coordinator. His battles are comic, fast, furious and epic, each new one more so than the one before. When he finally confronts those who would rob China of their heritage in a steel mill, you’ve never quite seen action like it. Ken Lo has an amazing kicking style, and seems almost too much for Jackie, but with a little drink in him, the dragon is truly unleashed. Kids, don’t try this at home.
Jackie’s most noted stunt in this film is, of course, one he performed himself, and it involves a backwards scramble across a bed of flaming coals that left him with scars on his hands and arms in real life. And as always, you can watch the outtakes at the end to find out what all went wrong during the making of the movie in order to finally bring fans what eventually went so right.
This is action and comedic spectacle at its finest. Sadly, many Americans still don’t seem to fully appreciate what an incredible star Jackie is, knowing him only from being sidekicks to the likes of Chris Tucker or Owen Wilson. In Hong Kong, the true Jackie always shone through. He was forty when he made this movie, and shows far more guts and ability than any action star half his age.
In other words, if you’ve never seen the real Jackie Chan in action, Legend of Drunken Master is an excellent starting point. Check this film out and see what the rest of the world already knows: Jackie Chan is a star with no equal anywhere on the globe.
I think this movie was originally released in Asia around 1992, and film preservation over there is notoriously poor, but Dimension has done a most respectable job in bringing this vision to Blu-ray. The high definition transfer brings out the colors of the images and the speed of the fight scenes with crispness and clarity. It looks a little soft here and there, and maybe not quite as fully dimensional as other modern titles, but the print cleaned up nicely despite a few marks from time to time. Nicely done.
From the opening music cue, you’ll know you’re in for a treat with this DTS HD audio offering. The action is plentiful and relentless, and you’ll marvel at how well it all comes across in uncompressed surround. Dynamic range is strong, and there is plenty of use of all channels to keep you in the middle of the fighting. The English dubbing (Jackie does his own) is not bad, and in some cases, adds to the goofy fun of the experience.
The disc includes a brief promotional interview with Jackie Chan filmed at the time of the movie’s American release.
Fans consider Legend of Drunken Master one of Jackie’s best offerings ever, and I wouldn’t disagree. For sheer fun, action, and entertainment value, you can’t do much better than this action-packed slice of comedy and martial arts.