Friday, March 14, 2008

Drunken Master II (aka The Legend of Drunken Master)

The Action Mutant…
does a lot of things with the word “Drunken” preceding them (including this review).

Drunken Master II (AKA The Legend of Drunken Master)

review by Joe Burrows

The sequel to the 1978 smash hit Drunken Master should have been called Who’s The Boss? You’ll see what I mean. By the way, does anyone think a Jackie Chan/Tony Danza vehicle would be gold? I didn’t think so.

The Plot, as it was:
Chan reprises the role of Wong Fei-Hung, who is still up to his old ways. He smuggles some ginseng into someone else’s luggage to avoid paying carry on tax for it. However, it gets mixed up with a similar looking package of jade artifacts that foreigners try to export out of the country. They want their artifacts back, which sucks for Wong because his father (Ti Lung) has forbade him to fight. Even worse, he forbids him to use his deadly drunken style, because it seems to lead to wanton destruction for both the user and his surroundings. Once again excommunicated by his father, Wong must take on the corrupt officials by himself and may have to envelop some “liquid courage” to do so.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
The obvious question for those just familiar with the original Drunken Master would be: Is the sequel better? The answer is yes and no, depending on your school of thought. Original director Lau Kar-Leung wanted the fighting to be more in tune with the old school kung fu that was more present in the original. Chan, ever the one to amp the action up to the nth degree, wanted the fighting to be like in his weapons infused, highly acrobatic vein. Guess who won that one? Frankly, I would have found it awesome either way, as most of the action here is in fact, truly awesome! Never mind the fact that Jackie isn’t the spring chicken he was in the first film, 16 years before. Forget that his father in the film is only 7 years older than him and his stepmother (Anita Mui) is 9 years younger! Screw the lack of credibility and just sit back and watch Chan in some of the nuttiest fights of his career. The constant inventiveness, involving everything from a shredded bamboo pole against the aptly named “Axe gang” to his use of liquor bottles, continues to amaze even if the story doesn’t. The whole moral about when to drink and fight seems wedged into the story with a crowbar and doesn’t go anywhere (and is kind of treated as a joke, especially if you watch the version with the original ending intact). With that said, just look past the slight moralistic stuff and enjoy what Jackie does best, which is kill himself for the greater good of entertainment (Hot Coals! REAL Hot Coals!). Also, I must give belated kudos to the late Anita Mui. Her comic timing and delivery in her scenes show a great old fashioned show(wo)manship. Her scenes are among the funniest in the film and show a great rapport with Chan. Some of Chan’s supporting players are rarely mentioned and I can honestly say her presence will be sorely missed.

Body Count/Violence: 3. Since this one includes more weapon use and less traditional martial arts than the first; Drunken Master II is slightly more violent and bloody than the original. One person is shot to death but the rest is all weapon induced mayhem that includes bamboo, glass bottles, work benches, spears, metal pipes, a fan and a purse! The climactic fight including real life Chan bodyguard Ken Lo is notable for Chan being kicked onto real burning coals, which becomes more notable when one learns that Chan didn’t like his reaction on the first take, prompting him to do the stunt again!

Sexuality/Nudity: None to speak of.

Language/Dialogue: Even milder than the first film, as the crudities aren’t as constant this time around.

How bad was it?:
It was about as critically well received as a sequel could be. Some actually consider it better than the original Drunken Master but that mainly if only the critics prefer Jackie’s evolution over the years. Ebert gave it the customary 3.5/****.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Made on a budget of $2 million HK ($10 million U.S.), Drunken Master II opened on 2/3/94 and grossed an astounding $41 million in its original Hong Kong run. Dimension Films released it as The Legend of Drunken Master on 10/20/00, nearly in its entirety (with the only changes coming in a new score and the deletion of the controversial last shot of Wong as a mental vegetable). It started strong in 5th place but quickly dropped off and slowly sank out of the top 50 by 12/8/00. The Legend of Drunken Master ended its American run with a gross of $11.6 million.

Film: ***1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ****1/2/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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