Drunken Master, a classic Hong Kong martial arts movie, was directed and action choreographed by Yuen Woo-ping, who would go on to choreograph the fight scenes in films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Kill Bill; and the Matrix movies. Jackie Chan stars as Wong Fei-hung, a cocky, rude, and belligerent rising talent in his father’s kung fu school. To teach his miscreant son a lesson, his father orders that he should be trained by a stern and imposing master, Beggar So (the Drunken Master, played by Yuen Siu-tien, incidentally, Yuen Woo-ping’s father). What follows is the expected butting of heads, entertaining training sequences, and gradual camaraderie between student and master. A contract killer, Yim Tit-sam (or “Thunderleg”), who has previously been established as a Real Tough Guy, is hired to kill Wong’s father. Employing his master’s teachings (“drunken boxing” is an actual style in Chinese martial arts, though this movie takes it to the literal extreme), Wong finally defeats Yim in an epic (but silly) last battle. As you may imagine, the fight scenes in this movie are excellent, intricate, and a lot of fun, with a mind-blowing number of accompanying sound effects. Linda Lin especially stands out in a small role as Wong’s aunt, teaching her ill-mannered nephew a lesson with dancer-like grace and efficiency.
Released in 1978, Drunken Master helped make Jackie Chan a star, along with the same year’s film Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow. Both movies were hits and set an enduring trend for humor in martial arts movies. English subtitled versions of the film switch back and forth between subtitled Cantonese and dubbed English, apparently due to the original Cantonese audio track having been damaged in parts. This is a bit distracting, but for your troubles, you hear dubbed chestnuts during intense fight scenes such as, “Wow, you almost killed me”, “Oh wow, you barely missed my knuckles”, and “Get bent, okay?” Definitely a product of its time, Drunken Master is nonetheless well done, and will no doubt delight your inner 10-year-old.
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