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Drunken Master (1978)

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-Jackie Chan
-Yuen Siao Tien
-Hwang Jang Lee


Wong Fei Hung (Chan) is a delinquent young man who seems to cause nothing but trouble for his father. After a number of incidents, his father decides to send him to his uncle, Su Hua-Chi, to be trained. Su has a reputation for torturing and breaking his students, but little does Fei Hung know that his father really wants him to learn the art of Drunken Boxing from him. His skills will be put to the test when he must prevent an hired assassin from killing his father.


When it comes to HK cinema, I usually don't go much for the seventies chop socky kung fu. Drunken Master, though, was one of the groundbreaking kung fu films Jackie would make in the late seventies. It is here that the comical Jackie really got to shine through and began to create his unique mix of comedy and kung fu. It has a simple plot, but some great comedy and amazing martial arts sequences. In such, it makes a delightfully enjoyable film that all martial arts fans, and especially Jackie fans, can enjoy.

By today's standards, the film feels very dated. If you aren't used to kung fu films from this era, this might really get you at first. Forget that, though. The substance in this film goes far beyond the chop-socky cliches that one might hold. It is a far different take on the Wong Fei Hung character than most are used to, making him the silly, delinquent teenager as opposed to the ultra-serious healer of other films. It's a fun take on things, and is kept very lighthearted. The main plot is simple, like many films from this era, but adequate for the film. The focus is not on the plotline, but on the antics of Fei Hung as we go through the film. These are plenty to keep viewers entertained for the duration.

Within just a few minutes of the film, we see Fei Hung messing with his teacher, making faces behind his back and just generally causing trouble, which sets the pace for the goofiness in the film. This is Jackie comedy at its purest and no holds are barred as such. This is no pretentious comedy, either. Some jokes might be extrememly silly, but they will certainly keep you entertained. From the ole' blunt side of the sword gag to Fei Hung trying to fast-talk his way out of paying for a meal, it is wall to wall comedy.

That is not to ignore the martial arts sequences. Yuen Woo Ping has earned a reputation in both the east and west by now, but it is amazing to see that even over twenty years ago he was showing what he was worth. The sequences in here are exciting and intricate. They don't get too bogged down in the obvious rigid timing that is sometimes evident in kung fu films of the era. Yuen also manages to mix the comedy into the choreography quite well at points. In particular, Fei Hung's fight with the stick king really gives him a chance to mess around with him and even throw some silly comments into the mix. Drunken Boxing only shows up toward the latter part of the film, but we get to see it in some good detail as the film goes from Fei Hung training in all the different drunken boxing styles to the final match where he must mix these styles against the hired assassin.

If you are a fan of Jackie, this is essential material. In fact, this is a great recommendation for anyone who just wants a simple, fun movie with some quality kung fu actin in it. Despite some of its dated aspects, the film has aged quite well and remains extremely enjoyable. It is actually somewhat regrettable that this film sometimes gets lost in the shadow of its sequel (which actually came 16 years later). Pick this up and see one of the true classics of HK cinema.



-Yuen Woo Ping


-Original Cantonese language