Posted: 10/23/2000

 

The Legend of Drunken Master

(1994)

by D. Patrick Seitz



This DVD is available for purchase at HKFlix.com.


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Perhaps the only thing more puzzling than Jackie Chan’s blatant disregard for concepts like pain and gravity is the fact that it took the studio poobahs six years to release The Legend of Drunken Master here in the U.S. Then again, Chan took his sweet time in getting around to the sequel in the first place, the original Drunken Master flick having come out some eighteen years prior. He was 24 when he made the first installment. The fact that he can do the same frenetic character justice at age 42 is nothing short of amazing.

In The Legend of Drunken Master, Chan reprises his role of Wong Fei-Hung, a real-life healer and kung fu master who died in 1924. In this film, Chan is the bumbling but good-natured son of a rather somber father (Ti Lung) and a benevolently conniving step-mother (Anita Mui, who was second only to Chan in the amount of laughter her character elicited from the audience).

There will be those who dismiss The Legend of Drunken Master as another Chan movie with a plot about as sturdy and meaningful as soggy cardboard. What such individuals fail to understand is that not even Chan’s most ardent fans are arguing that his films pack the same social gravitas as Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan. His films are excuses to watch him hop around like a human grasshopper and whup ass in the most creative of ways, much like Thanksgiving is an excuse to stuff turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie down one’s gullet with impunity.

Returning home from a trip, Hung hides some of his father’s ginseng in British ambassador’s luggage to try and get out of paying tax on it. When he goes to retrieve it, he accidentally picks up an identical package (of course) belonging to the ambassador. This package contains a Chinese artifact, one of many that the ambassador is intent upon smuggling out of China and selling to the highest bidder (don’t they always?). The ambassador’s hired molls try their best to retrieve the artifact and snuff Hung. Much ass-whuppage ensues.

Luckily for China’s cultural heritage, Chan’s adept at the “drunken boxing” style of kung-fu, in which a fighter will try to confuse their opponent by moving and attacking as if they were drunk. According to Hung’s father, and as Hung himself demonstrates, inebriation only goes to hone a drunken boxer’s skills. Although Hung’s more than capable of fighting while sober, when he’s in his cups, he’s damn near invincible—Anheuser-Busch’s answer to Popeye, if you will.

As Chan fans know, anyone willing to sit through the end credits is treated to footage of bloopers and stunts gone awry. To his credit, Chan seemed to emerge from The Legend of Drunken Master largely unscathed. Unfortunately, when he got hurt, it was with a capital H—squished by a falling metal drum, and scarred by a bed of burning coals in an iron foundry. Even for a man who’s broken one ankle, three noses (his own, three times), most of his fingers, and fractured his skull, that has to hurt.

Sooner or later, Jackie Chan’s incredible run of movies will have to come to an end. He’ll either age to the point where he’s saddled with the same laws of physics as the rest of us, or he will have exhausted every possible combination of random items and villain’s bodies.

But until that inevitable day, as The Legend of Drunken Master clearly proves, Chan’s a man without peer at what he does.

D. Patrick Seitz skipped out on grad school to pursue dreams of acting, writing, and voiceover work in Los Angeles. Please forward all letters of condolence to his mother…



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