THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Jackie Chan's reputation as the world-wide king of fun, funny, eyepoppingly wild kung fu movies was
cemented largely by the astonishing Drunken Master (1978). In playing Wong Fei-Hong (the name
comes from a legendary Hung Gar Kung Fu innovator from the 1800's) Jackie created a lovable, goofy
persona that he would revisit in film after film. By Drunken Master II (1994) he had become
an international superstar.
One can only imagine the excitement for a
sequel so long in the coming.
Jackie once again plays Fei-Hong as a bumbling teen (even though he was 40 by this time) whose drunken boxing style is fast but
He only gains true strength when he starts getting ripped on any booze he can find. In this way he's like a pre-rehab Popeye.
Once Jackie gets smashed
he starts flinging his arms around in faux-sloppy moves, announcing his forms as he goes. Even without the booze the fights
here are spectacular.
Unlike later films like Mr. Nice Guy and Rumble in the Bronx, the emphasis here is on kung fu. There are no
big showy stunts like the Supercop helicopter swing. The fights are
the key scenes here and they really are amazing. Some moves are so unreal that they require rewinding and slo-mo viewing.
How's the rest of the movie? Well, the plot is the usual incomprehensible mix of thieves and rebellions, but no one watches
these films for their stories. Hell, it's almost impossible to know what the story is anyway since the subtitles
are so loopy (at one point Jackie tells a foe "Fit to it!" The response, of course, is "Dawn you!") that it's hard to tell what anyone is
even talking about. Still, Jackie gives a great performance (as do some of the other actors, including the hilarious Anita Mui) and
the fighting is simply top notch.
This Hong Kong release of the film is essential since it presents the film in its original language (something the Americanized re-edit, titled
Legend of Drunken Master, doesn't do) and it also includes the complete ending. A bit of a random surprise, the final
moments of Drunken Master II have been called offensive by
US critics like Leonard Maltin leading to its exclusion from other US releases. While I can see where the charge comes from the
ending is pretty funny and
is obviously just the product of Jackie's anything-for-a-laugh style. Without it the film feels incomplete. With the ending back on,
the Drunken Master II again achieves that high level of insanity that helped catapult it into the international spotlight in the
One note, Drunken Master III, despite the title, is not
a sequel to this film. It is a totally unrelated film that does not feature Jackie Chan that only seeks to capitalize on the famous
The transfer is kind of sub par. It is widescreen but it lacks sharpness and the colors are a bit weak. There is also a good deal of
on the print. Still, it is quite watchable and there isn't much real damage to the print.
The audio is fine. Since this is the original Chinese soundtrack the soundtrack contains the trademark exaggerated chopsocky
and punches (The US release had more natural, and less funny, sound effects). English and Chinese subtitles are included although, again, the accuracy of the translation is up for debate.
Supposedly there are some previews on the disc but, with the menus entirely in Chinese, I couldn't find them.
Drunken Master II is a pinnacle in both Jackie Chan's career and the entire genre of kung-fu. It doesn't rely too heavily
on anything other than expert sparring. There is comedy and there are some incredibly dangerous stunts but it is the fighting here
that draws the most attention. Along with his stable of partners, Jackie provides the thrills and chills as he is known for and the film
deserves a spot on any fan's shelf.
Other martial arts DVDs:
Jackie Chan: My Stunts
The Buddha Assassinator
The Last Dragon
Drunken Master III
E-mail Gil at firstname.lastname@example.org