DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
4K UHD
International DVDs
Theatrical
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Sponsored Links

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Drunken Monkey
Drunken Monkey
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // August 14, 2007
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Cornelius | posted August 13, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Rent It
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
"Drunken Monkey" kicks off with one heck of a bang. After discovering his partner has been using the good reputation of their delivery and insurance company to smuggle opium, Master Man Bill (Lau Kar Leung) fights back in anger. The confrontation escalates to mammoth proportions, with Bill single-handedly taking on an army of expert warriors. Alas, Bill is defeated, left for dead after he plummets into the river.

And then, well, because the film is already mired in a pile of kung fu flick clich├ęs, fans already know what's next: we flash forward (one year, in this case) to find Bill living in peaceful hiding, training a young female student the ways of monkey kung fu. The plot is familiar on purpose, as Leung, who also directed, wanted "Drunken Monkey" to be a grand comeback not only for himself (he previously helmed such martial arts cinema essentials as "Drunken Master II" and "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin" and by 2003 had not made a movie since the ill-conceived "Drunken Master III" nine years earlier) but for the sort of old school kung fu for which he was best known. "Drunken Monkey," a Shaw Brothers release, was intended as a celebration of vintage martial arts action, both in storytelling and filmmaking. There would be the occasional "wire fu," sure, but no computer effects; the on-screen action would be as pure as possible. Meanwhile, old school stars such as Leung, Gordon Liu, and Chi Kuan Chun team up with fresh faces like new star Wu Jing Jason (aka Jacky Wu), making the project a old-guard-meets-the-new extravaganza.

When it comes down to the action, such a gamble works brilliantly. These are fight scenes the way fans love 'em best, the grand spectacle leaving viewers with dropped jaws and popped eyes. And the opening sequence is expertly handled, so much so that we even get a bit of emotional depth to the proceedings, a rare treat for the genre.

Ah, but then we're moved into the story proper, and we discover that in trying to replicate the classic style, rookie writer Li Pak Ling goes too far, giving us comedy that doesn't work, a plot that doesn't make any sense, and characters that are too flat. Too often, Pak Ling gives us old school, but not the old school we'd like to remember.

The movie starts falling apart right around that one-year-later flash-forward. The story jumps rather incoherently to the misadventures of a wealthy, bored family whose heritage has become so jumbled (thanks to many odd cross-generational marriages and such) that the Grand Uncle of the family (Wu Jing Jason) is much younger than the nephews he bosses around. One nephew (Lau Wing Kin), the same age as (and good friend of) Grand Uncle, wants to paint the perfect manual for monkey kung fu, and his efforts fall mainly in the "irritating slapstick" realm of broad set-ups. After many "zany" situations, the nephew and Grand Uncle head far off to a new school (or something); the duo hear of a mysterious fighting expert who'd be perfect to help with the manual. A lengthy search reveals Master Man Bill teaching spunky young Siu-Ma (Shannon Yao). But this discovery reaches Bill's old partners, who come looking for the man they thought they already killed.

It's a crowded, confusing mess, with little regard to proper character introduction or explanation. Worse, when we first meet the family, there's a major shift in tone, going from the near-operatic melodrama of the opening sequence to the overly goofy comedy of the family. It's as if we're suddenly watching a whole new movie, and the shift is so abrupt it spoils the mood.

The movie never quite recovers. It comes close many times, whenever Leung would pull out another exceptional action sequence - in addition to showcasing fantastic talent both old and new, the fight choreography is about as airtight as a fan could ever want, while Leung's direction perfectly handles each shot with dazzling skill. But the admitted awesomeness of those moments never quite rise above the clunkiness of the rest of the movie. Every time we're captivated by the action, we're immediately let down by the awkward jokey nature or clumsy plotting of the moments around them.

"Drunken Monkey," then, is a brilliant opportunity brilliantly wasted; genre fans will go nuts for the action, but find themselves consistently frustrated by everything else.

The DVD

After years of being available only as an import, "Drunken Monkey" finally arrives on Region 1 DVD thanks to Lionsgate.

Video and Audio

Aside from a few nighttime scenes that show a hefty amount of grain and one early shot that reveals some slight print damage (both perhaps flaws in the print itself and not the transfer), "Drunken Monkey" looks pretty darn solid here, better than expected. Many scenes are bright and crisp, with sharp, nicely balanced colors. One panning shot reveals a minor amount of jitteriness, but this problem is not noticeable in any of the action scenes. Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, approximating the film's original 1.85:1 format.

The soundtrack deserves both kudos and grumbles: the English dub sounds brilliant in sparkling Dolby 5.1, big and brassy with excellent use of the surround feature, while the original Cantonese soundtrack is only offered in a serviceable but unimpressive Dolby 2.0. Why couldn't we get the original track in surround, too?

Lionsgate sticks us with limp "dubtitles" (subtitles taken from the dub transcription and not a direct translation of the original dialogue), which means even if we choose the original soundtrack, we can't quite escape the loose translating (the fighting style is called "monkeyish fist" in both the subtitles and the English dub). The dubtitles are removable; optional Spanish subtitles are also provided.

Extras

Just a collection of trailers for other Lionsgate releases. These previews also play as the disc first loads; you can skip past them if you choose.

Final Thoughts

When the action's on, "Drunken Monkey" is a total blast. When the action's off, "Drunken Monkey" is a total snooze. With no bonus features to help sweeten the pot, fans and newcomers alike should just Rent It first to see if they can tolerate the intrusive sloppiness in between all the good stuff.
Popular Reviews
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2. The Adventures of Hajji Baba
3. Andrei Rublev: Criterion Collection
4. Superman: The Movie
5. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
6. I Married Joan: Classic TV Collection Vol 4
7. Creepshow
8. Fire Birds
9. How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Ultimate Edition
10. Starchaser: The Legend of Orin


Sponsored Links
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Sponsored Links
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use