This is the first time that I've ever started off a review by telling you
what film I'm not reviewing. This is not a review of THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN
MASTER (1994), starring the lovable Jackie Chan. The 1994 version was in
the original Chinese and came with English subtitles. I have a
critic-friend well versed in Hong Kong cinema, who claims the 1994 version
is a classic martial arts picture of the comedic action genre. I came late
to the Jackie Chan admiration society. Although I'm a fan now, with my
favorite being his recent SHANGHAI NOON, I haven't seen any of his early
films such as this movie.
In order to capitalize on the Chan phenomenon and knowing that American
audiences are generally too lazy to read, the studio has released a poor and
awkwardly dubbed reissue of the original. This review is strictly for the
dubbed version. How these thoughts would apply to the original, I have no
idea. I absolutely shudder to think what my second favorite film of last
year, RUN LOLA RUN, would sound like dubbed into English.
Chan stars in a picture with a remarkably thin plot. As usual he does
everything himself from getting beaten up to falling on burning coals. Is
there no limit to the pain he has to endure for his craft? In his normal
outtakes shown during the closing credits, he proves to us yet again that he
does do all of his own stunts, risking his life and limb.
His schtick this time is that he is a master of the art of drunken fighting.
Tanked up with lots of booze, which he guzzles during the bouts, he bobs and
weaves so that hitting him is like trying to strike blowing grass in a
strong wind. As almost an afterthought, the story lets us know that even a
drunken master can over imbibe, rendering him more of a fool than a master.
The beauty of Chan's films is due as much to the ballet-quality choreography
that he brings to kung fu as to the humor that permeates everything that he
does. In a nutshell, the problem with THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER is that
there is too much fighting gymnastics and too little of the story
development. This means that the story dissolves into little more than
slapstick and highly repetitive fight sequences. I wanted more than this
and left the theater feeling cheated. This was one of the unusual Chan
movies in which I didn't have much fun. Maybe you will. Or maybe you'll
avoid this theatrical version entirely and go rent the subtitled one
THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER runs 1:42. It is rated R for violent content
and would be acceptable for teenagers.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes