The Legend of Drunken Master
Jackie Chan reprised the role of Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-Hong in 1994's Drunken Master II, the sequel to his 1978 breakout hit Drunken Master. And while there are some legitimate gripes about the Americanized version (released theatrically by Dimension Films in 2000 as The Legend of Drunken Master), what's here is still bound to please most Chan-fans. The plot as is the case in virtually all Chan films is both a crime saga and a comedy of errors, set here in the early 20th century, as Fei-Hong finds himself at odds with his physician father Wong Kei-Ying (Lung Ti) after losing a valuable ginseng root. But in the midst of family quarrels (spiced up by the lively Anita Mui as Fei-Hong's stepmother), it is soon discovered that a group of foreigners are planning to take historical Chinese artifacts out of the country, leaving it up to Fei-Hong and General Fu Wen-Chi (Chia-Liang Liu, who also directed) to stop the baddies before it's too late. First, the quibbles the original Cantonese soundtrack (and the original score) are not included on this DVD release of The Legend of Drunken Master, which is nothing more than the 2000 theatrical release. For Chan purists it borders on sacrilege, and those folks will want to hang on to their VHS or LD editions of Drunken Master II to get the original version intact (the closing gag has also been deleted, reportedly because Disney/Dimension found it tasteless, which explains why the film ends so abruptly.) But what's left here is largely entertaining, and very different from Chan's big-budget U.S. projects (Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon), or even his high-tech Hong Kong romps like Supercop and First Strike. All of the action in Legend of Drunken Master is built around hand-to-hand combat, often with Chan's Fei-Hong doing his "drunken boxing" fighting style, complete with plenty of alcohol to get in the proper frame of mind (so to speak). Standout moments include an early fight under a train between Chan and director Chia-Liang; a battle between Jackie and four henchmen in a public square; a completely surreal sequence where Chan and Chia-Liang are descended upon in a small house by at least a hundred men with hatchets; and the final standoff in a steel mill, complete with a Chan stunt that has become one of his most memorable, as he tumbles through a bed of red-hot coals something the dauntless action star was willing to endure without special effects. Throughout the entire affair Chia-Liang shoots the many melees just how they should be head to toe, making Chan's fighting, and not the editing, the main attraction. The traditional outtake reel is included under the closing credits. Buena Vista's DVD release of The Legend of Drunken Master features a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) from a very good source print, with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Features include a seven-minute retrospective of the film with comments from Chan, and home-video promos for 10 Chan and Jet Li films (all under the Dimension banner). Keep-case.