The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Jui kuen aka Drunken Master (1978)

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I picked this film to review on our Hong Kong movie series for two reasons. First, it's a collaboration between director Woo-ping and Jackie Chan; and second, while most Hong Kong cinema has pockets of comedy among serious action, this film has pockets of action among tons of comedy.

Drunken Master has Chan as a petulant youth whose father sends him to his great uncle so he can learn some discipline and Kung Fu. It's a hard road, but his uncle finally shows him his Drunken Style, which he needs to take down Thunderleg, an assassin sent to kill his father.

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This movie could've been a little shorter and some of the comedy routines were a little repetitive, but overall it's a fun time. Woo-ping's choreography combined with Chan's skill and comedic timing are a perfect combination. Even if much of the film is supposed to be funny, everyone takes the fight scenes as seriously as they would in any other action film. I think that's the key. If the fights were lackluster, even if they were funny, this wouldn't have worked. That's the thing with Hong Kong cinema and guys like Woo-ping and Jackie Chan: they don't know how to do things half-assed.

Compared to Police Story, this is a totally different ballgame. Here Chan is doing much more traditional Kung Fu in a period piece, as opposed to a modern action film with fighting that's more street brawling than exquisitely choreographed martial arts. Still, both have a large amount of that comedic element, which I think is great. Bruce Lee might be the greatest Hong Kong star ever, but Jackie Chan was the one who put them back on the map after Lee died.

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The other Woo-ping film we've done during this series is Tai Chi Master, which came about 15 years after Drunken Master, and is a film on a completely different scale. Huge fight scenes with tons of people doing amazing things. The one drawback in that one was the drawn out Jet Li crazy segment that was supposed to be funny, but just didn't work that well. Here, Chan allows Woo-ping to exercise his funny side in a way that works.

Chan's drunken style reminds me of Lei from Tekken, which is who I think he was based on. My buddy used to use him and Xiaoyu to try and combat my King/Armor King combination in Tekken Tag. If you're not aware, the Kings are by far the best characters, which I didn't know when I first started using them when my buddies and I played in college. I just loved their throws, especially the Giant Swing. Anyway, we'd get a bunch of people from our dorm in, and the rule was I'd have to beat someone twice while they only had to beat me once in order to stay on. I had win streaks into the 40s and 50s, and I thought I was the man-- until I found a guidebook on the game and read that the Kings were so good it was unfair. Anyway, seeing Chan look like Lei brought me back to those days of dominance.

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The Netflix Watch Instantly version I watched was dubbed, not subtitled, and Jackie's voice sounded like it had an English accent. It's always an interesting discussion, to subtitle or not to subtitle. Usually I'd say only people who can't read quick enough need subtitles, but with 70s Hong Kong cinema, part of the charm for some is in the dubbing. For me it's not a debate: subtitles no matter what-- you don't want to read movies? Go watch National Treasure. If it's good enough for Godard, it's good enough for Woo-ping or Jimmy Wu Yang.

You can get this both on Netflix Watch Instantly or on Crackle.com, making it one of the easier films in the Hong Kong series to get a hold of. Definitely worth checking out if you haven't already. Woo-ping and Jackie Chan? What more do you need?

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080179/

3 comments:

  1. I come from the stance of subtitled no matter what unless it's old Godzilla movies or Kung Fu (70s old school) For me it adds to the charm of such. Mainly because the dubbing is so dry and it sometimes doesn't match the lips. This adds a sense of camp and there is also nostalgia factor. Although for everything else there is just no excuse for such.



    I liked this film but I liked the sequel a lot more. I love this for the training montage. Also Chan and John Woo at the same time put Hong Kong back on the map in 1993. Indeed nobody really saw the Police Story, Dragons Forever and Wheels On Meals movies until Chan and Woo hit the sene in 1993

    Indeed I would send you a copy of Dragons Forever but unfortuntely I have one opy and I don't even want to risk my DVD getting lost in the mail. Indeed I spent 22 bucks on it (and now it's like 40 some dollars on Amazon) and while I am usually prone to not going over 14 dollars, I made an exception with that and Story Of Ricky. And i've never been disappointed.

    Although I think I should just put this warning out, to see Police Story on the Dragon Dynasty one, or find a HK copy in the states, but do not buy a dimension which for some asinine reason dubs the character's name from Police Story and just called him "Jackie Chan" for Police Story 1 and 2 and boy did this grate the nerves. I mean can you imagine if Kickboxer's main character was dubbed "Jean-Claude Van Damme".

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  2. I think a lot of people prefer the sequel (as Kenner mentions), but I've got a real soft spot for this. Drunken Master is the film that got me properly into proper kung-fu movies after Enter the Dragon whetted my appetite.

    Although it's very silly and the emphasis is on humour, the jokes are usually integrated into the action, so for me it always felt like the majority of the film was just action sequences so I was surprised when you said it had 'pockets of action'. It's been a while to be honest though, but I can remember it being jam packed with fights. Maybe I was mixing up very physical comedy with actual action.

    Anyway, it was great to read your thoughts on it. I've been enjoying your recent kung-fu coverage, you've hit on a bunch of classics that I love.

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  3. Godzilla should be dubbed, I agree. I just think if someone is saying something like Master of the Flying Guillotine is silly and better dubbed, I think they're missing some of the quality in it. I've seen some indie art house flicks that weren't as good as that one.

    As far as Jackie saving Hong Kong, I'm talking about in Hong Kong. We forget that the industry domestically was crippled by Bruce Lee's death, not just here in the States. You're right though, it did take longer for it to come back over here, and The Protector did a lot to hurt that.

    Definitely Dave, the action in Drunken Master was great. I think what I wanted to say was unlike a Tai Chi Master, a lot of the action in Drunken Master was done for comedic effect, with a few done dramatically; while in Tai Chi Master a lot of the fights were done for dramatic effect, with a few of them done comedically. Either way, like you said, it was a great film.

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