Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan) is a mischievous, yet righteous young man, but after a series of incidents, his frustrated father has him disciplined by Beggar So (Yuen Siu-Tien), a master of drunken martial arts.
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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.Written by
Jason Abbott <email@example.com>
It is said that this is the film that made Jackie Chan a star, but that isn't really true, since Snake in Eagle's Shadow actually had a bigger impact at the time, and allowed Chan to make this film. One way we know this is that there are some two dozen films made in the late '70s- early'80's designed to imitate Snake in Eagle's Shadow, and only a couple imitate this film. By the time Drunken Master had become legendary world-wide, the chop-socky cycle (to which it still belongs, to an extent) had passed into history, and Chan himself had abandoned historical 'fu films for contemporary comedy-thrillers.
It should be noted that the idea of making a film based on the early years of Wong Fei Hong was not original to Chan; at roughly the same time this film was being made, well-known martial arts choreographer Liu Chia Leung made a straight (non-comic) version of the story (without drunken boxing) over at Shaw Brothers, Challenge of the Masters, with Gordon Liu as Wong Fei Hung.
The defining moment for the Chan-Yuen version of the film is the use of Drunken Boxing. There is no real evidence that the historical Wong Fei Hung was a master of this style; his more famous innovations involved the development of the shadowless hand technique and the no-shadow kick. Interestingly, in order to highlight Chan's use of Drunken Boxing, these other two techniques, better identified with Wong, are assigned in the film to the villain, "Thunderlegs" played by Hwang Jen Lee.
At any rate, it would not be clear that one could consider this a Wong Fei Hung film at all - if it weren't for the fact that this film effectively redefined the Wong legend, so that it has since become pro-forma to assume that Wong was a bit wild in his youth. (Just to set that record straight, Wong was actually extremely studious, and recognized as a real child-prodigy in the martial arts, winning his first major public duel at the age of thirteen.) Drunken Master is solid martial arts entertainment. There are decided weaknesses in the plot and over-all staging of the film, but these can easily be ignored, as the film thrusts us along with kung fu and comedy to the grand final fight at the end. It must also be noted that these characters - even the villain - are well acted and quite likable and familiar, and thus add a credibility to the film. And Yuen's direction is also very professional and a couple notches above the average for a Hong Kong genre film of the time.
Lives up to its own legend, and well-worth the viewing.
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