What Does it Mean When There’s a Picture of a Skull?
It’s come time to choose a favorite in a genre that I’m admittedly hit and miss with: the martial arts genre. I love a good display of ass-kickery, but it’s occasionally difficult to get through the poor filmmaking and lame story you find in the bulk of them. Especially if the martial arts aren’t interesting. To make it as my favorite martial arts movie, it doesn’t necessarily have to have the greatest story, but it should at least be fun. And the ass-kickery should be top notch. That makes it sound like I needed to put a lot of thought into today’s movie, but that’s not true. I knew this was my favorite martial arts movie for quite some time. This movie is The Legend of Drunken Master (also known as Drunken Fist 2 and Drunken Master 2), written by Edward Tang, Tong Man-Ming, and Yun Kai-Chi, directed by Chia-Liang Liu and Jackie Chan, and starring Jackie Chan, Lung Ti, Anita Mui, Liu Chia-Liang, Felix Wong, Chin Ka-lok, Ken Lo, and Andy Lau.
Wong Fei Hung (Jackie Chan) gets involved in the affairs of the British consul by accidentally taking a box containing an ancient Chinese artifact that he thought was a box of ginseng belonging to his father, Wong Kei Ying (Ti Lung). The henchmen of the consulate attempt to steal the artifact by snatching the purse of his stepmother, Ling (Anita Mui), but Fei Hung is a master of Zui Quan, also known as Drunken Boxing. Of course, he’s much better at it when he’s drunk. Getting drunk gets him in trouble with his father, who kicks him out for drunkenly (and accidentally) attacking him. He gets even drunker as a result and gets ambushed by the henchmen that take advantage of his overly drunkenness. Later, Master Fu Wen-Chi shows up to retrieve the artifact, but he and Fei Hung get attacked and the artifact gets taken by the consulate. Fei Hung determines to retrieve it.
Though I really love this movie, I would never say that the story is the greatest thing ever. It’s pretty fun, and kind of funny in parts, but it loses track of its storyline and gets confused occasionally. I guess you could say the main story is the stuff about the artifacts, but they also choose to throw in the parts about the ambassadors wanting the martial arts schools closed, the parts about the miners being mistreated, and the parts about Fei Hung disappointing his father. A lot of those things distract the story, but it’s still fun times. As with many Jackie Chan movies, they go for a descent amount of comedy and even manage to succeed sometimes. A lot of the comedy happens when Fei Hung is drunk, and most of the rest of it comes from either his put upon brother or his goofy step mother. There are a couple of slightly emotional parts too, but I wasn’t paying much attention to them.
The real stuff in this movie (as with most martial arts movies) is the fighting, and it’s all very great. In a similar way to Jet Li’s Fists of Legend, they don’t make you wait very long between the fights. There’s one point where Fei Hung is sitting around drinking tea with Fu Min-chi and they seemed to realize, “Wait, what are we doing?!” so they threw a gang of like 30 guys wielding axes at them. And it’s just like Jackie Chan to fight those guys with axes with two benches. And the fights are usually pretty creative and interesting. I haven’t seen many movies where the main character needs to get sloppy drunk to reach his full fighting potential, but it works very well for this movie. From what I remember, Jackie Chan had to make up most of the things that came to be Drunken Boxing as it’s not a widely taught martial art. It’s a very visually interesting fighting style and really does look like the fighter is sloppy drunk while fighting, just more precise and skilled. I found it strange that Fei Hung really wasn’t anything special in the fighting department when sober, though. And I also found it funny that they had a separate musical sting that they played every time Fei Hung went into the Drunken Boxing stance. And the ending, when he finally gets drunk and defeats Crazy Legs McGee or whatever his name was, it was very satisfying. And, as with most Jackie Chan movies, there are some great bloopers that run over the credits. I always love watching these bloopers, which is another reason why I like Jackie Chan movies so much. That’s a lot of “Oh, and then this also!” statements.
You never really expect much out of the performances in a martial arts movie, but I actually really like the performances in this one. Jackie Chan was usually pretty funny in his role, and that (like his martial arts ability) was amplified by alcohol. I remember seeing in the featurettes that he would actually hang upside down before the parts where he was supposed to be drunk so that his face would be red, and it worked really well. He also had a scene or two where he had to be depressed by something, and he was fully able to pull those off as well. Anita Mui would be the next best part of this movie. She did a little bit of fighting in the movie, but she was mostly over the top comic fun. She was goofy and funny on occasion. I still think there’s something goofy and funny about the time she catches the purse in the air above her head. On the other hand, Lung Ti as Fei Hung’s father was barely ever a likeable character in the movie.
I love the Legend of Drunken Master. The story has a little too much going on and loses track occasionally, but it’s also lots of fun and the fights are creative and visually interesting. The two biggest performances in the movie (brought by Jackie Chan and Anita Mui) were both big wins for me. I think this is a good martial arts movie for people that want to get into the genre, because its amount of fun should win people over long enough to get them to watch some cool fights. Go check the movie out. Legend of Drunken Master gets “Drinking gives Herculean strength” out of “If you have job, you wear the pants.”
Congratulations again go to Prize-hog Chris, who stole a second movie out of the hands of a special needs child named Fabian by guessing this movie correctly.
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