Drunken Master (1978)

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drunken master poster

Director: Yuen Woo-ping

Starring: Jackie Chan, Hwang Jang Lee, Simon Yuen, Hsu Hsia, Dean Shek

110 Minutes

Fresh off the success of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Jackie Chan reteamed again with Yuen Woo Ping for what would become his defining movie role; Wong Fei Hung in Drunken Master. Taking on the role of the legendary martial arts master, Jackie’s Fei Hung is mischievous and quick to fight; very different from many other reverential depictions. Here he is so out of line he is sent to train with notorious kung fu instructor Beggar Su (Simon Yuen); a master of drunken boxing. When he finds the training too arduous he runs away only to encounter brigand and assassin Thunderleg (Hwang Jang Lee). Beaten and humiliated, Fei Hung returns to Su’s instruction to master this unique style and rescue his father, the next target of Thunderleg!

This classic film is one of those nostalgia inducing and all around good times. The tone is light and much of the humor is spot on and immensely fun. Seeing Jackie at such a young age and fresh faced truly makes you appreciate all the years and work he has had to put in to get to where he is today. His physical state is top, and the inventive training sequences and fights give ample opportunity for Jackie to show off. Simon Yuen’s turn as Su is legendary, and he would become the most recognizable iteration of the character; including the turns by Donnie Yen, Vincent Zhao, and Chow Yun Fat. Lee doesn’t have a ton of screen time until the exhausting final fight, but he’s a mean and tough villain and shows why he is the best kicker in films period. From his telltale evil mustache to his sinister and awesome laugh, he’s everything you want in a kung fu baddie.

Directed and choreographed by the legendary Yuen Woo Ping, Drunken Master features stellar fights filled with many moves and techniques. The drunken boxing itself would set the template for all drunken style films to come and it would never be replicated better. Wide angle photography and a flair for camera placement set this film apart from many other contemporary films and it is easy to see that there was something special captured when this picture was made.

One of the most acclaimed martial arts films, and rightfully so, Drunken Master remains one the best works from Jackie Chan and Yuen Woo Ping period. Hugely entertaining and filled with amazing fights, Drunken Master is one of those must see films that fight fans must watch before you can call yourself any sort of martial arts aficionado.

You may enjoy this film if you liked: Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Young Master, and Mystery of Chess Boxing

 

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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