Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Movie Review: Drunken Master II

AKA The Legend of Drunken Master in the United States.

This is it. I've reviewed a whole heap of Jackie Chan movies, but if you watch only one, this is the one to watch. Unlike some of the older movies, you aren't waiting around for the big fight at the end to see the fireworks. Here, just about every fight sequence is outstanding - a staff-versus-sword fight underneath a train, a drunken fighting battle in a marketplace, Jackie taking on an axe-wielding gang with a bamboo pole, and the final classic scene in a foundry with Jackie taking on kick-fighting expert Ken Lo (and a pit of red-hot coals). This is Jackie at his top form- fluid, acrobatic and imaginative.

And for a change, the non-action scenes mostly keep up with the action. This is mostly due to the efforts of Anita Mui, playing Jackie's step-mother (despite being younger than Jackie). She channels her inner Lucille Ball here, switching from comic schemer to penitent dutiful wife in an instant when her long-suffering husband appears. Between Jackie's Wong Fei-hung and Anita's wife, it's amazing the husband stayed sane as long as he did.

The plotline is not unusual for a Jackie film. He plays a young man (despite his being way too old for that type of role by this point) who is talented in martial arts but undisciplined. He finally run afoul of his father (too much drunken boxing, even if in a good cause) and is cast out. Unlike other films, though, he doesn't end up getting trained by an older master - here, he just finds the right path by himself. He ends up working to battle the typical "evil British masters" who are working to smuggle out jade artifacts and close a local factory and take over Jackie's family home. As I said, little pieces from many movies in the past, but put together much better here.

This really is the peak for Jackie Chan films. Five stars for sure. Up next in the Festival: Jackie tries a new occupation, getting behind the wheel in Thunderbolt.

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