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Drunken Master

Jackie Chan practices inebriated fisticuffs in Drunken Master.
AKA: Drunken Monkey in the Tiger's Eye
Year: 1978
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Producer: Ng See-Yuen
Cast: Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen Hsiao-Tien, Hwang Jang-Lee, Hsu Hsia, Dean Shek Tin
The Skinny: An essential kung fu classic for every HK fan's movie library. Drunken Master is a film that not only gave a comedic twist to the Wong Fei-Hong legend, but allowed Jackie Chan the chance to hone his kung fu/comedy shtick. It's also the prequel to the best Jackie Chan film EVER.
Review by

     Just as Evil Dead 2 can be called both a sequel and a remake of the earlier Sam Raimi flick The Evil Dead, so too can Drunken Master be viewed as a "re-imagining" of its unofficial predecessor, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, a film released only months before with practically the same cast, crew, and storyline. But make no mistake: Drunken Master isn't some quickie rehash. Instead, the film takes the best elements from Snake to craft not just an excellent kung fu comedy, but a landmark film in the Jackie Chan canon.
     Drunken Master is yet another story about kung fu hero Wong Fei-Hong (Jackie Chan), but instead of depicting the legendary sifu as a mature, stately, and stoic figure (as Jet Li would later do in the Once Upon a Time in China series), Jackie Chan takes an altogether different route. No, as evidenced by the nickname "Naughty Panther," Drunken Master's Wong Fei-Hong is a fun-loving teenage jokester who consistently ends up in trouble, much to the dismay of his respected father Wong Kei-Ying.
     Utterly incorrigible, Young Fei-Hong is eventually sent away by his father to be trained by Beggar So (Simon Yuen), a geriatric alcoholic who just happens to be a badass master of the martial arts. From the beginning, Fei-Hong is resistant to So's training, feeling it to be nothing more than punishment. A fair assumption, considering that So has a reputation for crippling his students!
     One day, Fei-Hong tricks his master and breaks free, only to cross paths with the formidable assassin Yan (played by Korean leg-fighter Hwang Jang Lee). The brash Wong challenges the hired killer and pretty much gets his ass handed to him. Humiliated, Fei-Hong returns to complete his training and learns the 8 Drunken Immortals style kung fu (his imitation of the female Immortal Miss Ho is particularly priceless). In the meantime, comedy hijinks ensue as Fei-Hong continues to play tricks on his hapless master, even at one point substituting the old man's precious wine with water! The prank backfires when Beggar So is attacked and forced to use drunken boxing sans the required alcohol!
     Beggar So eventually abandons Wong once he's taught him everything he needs to know. Then, in a convenient (and inevitable) plot twist, the assassin Yan is hired to kill Wong Kei-Ying, giving Fei-Hong the opportunity to make good on his long-held revenge fantasies. This raises the latest of many questions which all must be answered by film's end. Will the elder Wong survive? Will Beggar So return to help his pupil? And most important, will Fei-Hong defeat the dastardly Yan and emerge as the new Drunken Master?
     There's a sequel, so umm…yeah. (Calvin McMillin 2002)

Notes: • In the dubbed version, Wong Fei-Hong is renamed "Freddy Wong (!)," Beggar So is called "Sam Seed," and Yan is known as "Thunderfoot."
Availability: DVD
Columbia Tristar
Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and English Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Korean, and Thai Subtitles
Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Film Expert Ric Meyers
Bonus Trailers
image courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video
 Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen