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The father of Wong Fei-hong, who has been attempting to teach his son kung-fu, but has found him too disobedient to teach and decides to send him off to his uncle, a cruel and torturous master of the 8-Drunken Genii kung-fu. After much suffering the son comes back to rescue the father from an assassin who has also previously humiliated Naughty Panther. Written by
Jason Abbott <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I am not very familiar with the true story of Wong Fei Hung. I've read about him before, and from memory, he was an exceptional martial artist (he practiced Hung-Gar) and became a folk-hero to the people of China, much like his father, Wong Kei Ying. So there is the true story, and then there is the 200 or so movies made about him. 'Drunken Master' is one of these.
I haven't seen most of those 200 movies, except for the Drunken Master movies, Jet Li's 'Once Upon a Time in China' series, and 'Iron Monkey'. The 'Once Upon a Time in China' movies and 'Iron Monkey' may be somewhat over-the-top wu xia movies, but they portray Wong Fei Hung as a serious hero. 'Drunken Master' features a very different take on the character.
Jackie Chan's Wong Fei Hung is a rebellious trouble-maker. His father, Wong Kei Ying, has given up on disciplining him, and sends him to his uncle, So Hai, the master of drunken boxing, hoping that a year of training with So Hai will sort Fei Hung out. Fei doesn't seem to learn his lesson until a chance encounter with Thunderfoot (Hwang Jang Lee)...
Story-wise, it is a bit of a standard kung-fu plot. However, in a documentary on Jackie Chan (I can't remember the name, I know that as of this review, it isn't listed on IMDb, but it was shown on SBS in 2003), 'Drunken Master' was mentioned as his breakthrough hit that nearly killed his career: Apparently Chinese viewers were insulted by Jackie's portrayal of Wong Fei Hung and nearly boycotted him when he was just gaining fame as an actor.
Onto more important matters. Like kung-fu. 'Drunken Master' is one of the kung-fu classics. Boosted by the presence of martial-arts star Hwang Jang Lee, this pretty much made or solidified the careers of Jackie Chan and Yuen Woo Ping (in his directorial debut). 'Drunken Master' features some very well choreographed fights and training scenes. 'Drunken Master' is very funny too, and is one of two movies I know where a young main-character gets beaten by an older middle-aged lady (which is always funny, more movies need a scene like this) - the other movie is Battlefield Baseball.
As a matter of interest for Jackie Chan fans: 'Drunken Master' signaled the end of Jackie Chan's work with director Wei Lo. Yay. In fact, the Columbia Tristar DVD release of 'Drunken Master' includes audio commentary by experts on Hong Kong cinema. I will check that out sometime, but it sounds like it would appeal to fans of kung-fu movies. Some more trivia - the latest release doesn't have the complete Cantonese sound track, and so the English dub is used where the Cantonese track is incomplete.
'Drunken Master' features awesome kung-fu scenes, and has some interesting historical perspectives. Ah, kung-fu movies and history, some of my favourite hobbies together at last - 10/10, a must see for any fans of Jackie Chan or kung-fu movies, 'Drunken Master' is kung-fu perfection.
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