The Legend of Drunken Master
review by Elias Savada, 20 October 2000

Continuity takes a drubbing and Jackie Chan does his own dubbing in this six-year-old weary rerelease of Jui kuen II (Drunken Master II), a limp Chinese noodle-headed sequel to his 1978 breakthrough feature. Trying to sacrifice a few bucks from your wallet to the box office gods, you could spare yourself those dollars by renting the English-subtitled version long available from your home video store. Itís pretty much the same film, dubbed (horribly) and with a new, perfunctory score by Michael Wandmacher. Even the British actorsí voices donít sync up properly! If youíre going to see this film, I recommend you donít watch the actorsí lips; itíll be very disconcerting.

Although the stuntwork is hyped as "must-be-seen-to-be-believed," its small scale stuff. Donít expect anything other than fast-and-fancy footwork and hand-to-hand combat in this campy salute to Chinese folk-hero Wong Fei-Hung. As the legendary master of a never-ending variety of Kung Fu styles, the ever charismatic Chan embraces that real life character as a drunken role model, guzzling oddles of wine and undoubtedly encouraging young impressionable minds to go home and scavenge through their parentsí liquor cabinet in search of similar inspiration. Somewhere, some youngster will undoubtedly aspire to imitate the alcoholically-impaired Fei-Hunt as he stumbles to martial mastery against corrupt British officials smuggling Chinese artifacts out of the country (a plot device peripherally appropriated for Chanís 1998 first American starring vehicle Rush Hour). There are obvious similarities to Popeye, replacing spinach with fermented grain.

Jackie, shame on you.

On the other hand, an ambitious adolescent may just look at the film and realize they could write something a hell of a lot better than this leaden undertaking. The film is just plain dull and confusing. Perhaps I shouldnít begrudge Mr. Chan for what I consider a lesser effort, but then a character thatís been the subject of more than 200 Hong Kong and Chinese films should have been retired if the screenwriters couldnít come up with something more exciting than this sad excuse for action entertainment.

Chan imbues a dopey charm on his drunken master, with a latent defiance that nearly always proceeds into one of the several battle sequences, two of the better featuring director/martial arts choreographer Lau Ka Leung as Fu Min-chi, a sly old fellow who Fei-Hung later befriends. Their initial confrontation beneath a train stopped for supplies showcases a rubbery bamboo spear and just as pliable metal sword. Later they both clash with a horde of ax-wielding mercenaries who canít seem to plant their weapons terribly well.

On the home front, the 40ish Chan barely passes off as the dutiful, twentysomething son of Wong Kei-Ying (Ti Lung), who runs a martial arts school on some valuable land, and shrewdly aware stepson of thirtysomething Madame Wong (Anita Mui), who not-so-delicately hides her affinity for gambling from her husband (although everyone else in town seems to known about her formidable mah-jong triumphs). Family and friends (a fishmonger and snake seller among them) eventually get drawn into the farce, which begins when Fei-Hung, to avoid a customs payment, secrets a valuable ginseng root in a diplomatís bag. The container happens to be the same size and shape, and be wrapped in the plain yellow covering, that it becomes mixed up with a box containing a precious jade seal being pilfered from the Peopleís Republic. The comic situation that follows, as Fei-Hung and Madame Wong maneuver to replace the missing root, is as underdeveloped as the rest of this story line, wherein mom decides to sell a precious necklace (why not use her wagered gains?) to spare her stepson embarrassment before his father. The writers also rip off a Three Stooges routine that belittles the memories of Moe, Larry, and Curly (who seem to have doubles lurching amongst the henchmen). Nyuk-nyuk-no-no.

The action climaxes in a steel factory, whose malevolent management are thugs in cahoots with the evil British consul, but the overworked, underpaid workers seem to evaporate as the stuntwork increases. As the rest of the cast vanishes, Fei-Hong gets busy downing large shots of what appears to be high octane unleaded to fire up his opposition. Heís hot and bothered, but all his drinking just makes me angry and tired. Next time Iím at the video store, Iíll pass this one by.

Directed by:
Lau Ka Leung

Jackie Chan
Ti Lung
Anita Mui
Felix Wong

Written by:
Edward Tang
Tong Man Ming
Yeun Chieh Chi




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