Drunken Master

Slept well, but woke up with that dry throat and leaky nose again. What’s the worst it could be? Throat cancer, I guess, but more likely it's a flu.

Obviously, I should've been a responsible adult, called in sick, drank plenty of fluids, got plenty of rest, blah blah blah — but I wanted to see Drunken Master (1978) and Drunken Master II (1993) at the UC Theater, and the movies played only today.

At work I really sold it — sniffling and moaning and groaning — and then “went home sick," but instead of going home I walked straight to the BART station. Catching the matinee instead of evening show was cheaper, and got me back to the rez hotel and tucked into bed nice and early.

I’d seen Drunken Master before, which is why I needed to see it again. Chan plays a street-fighter named Wong Fei-Hung, or as the bad guy calls him, “Good Guy.” His domineering father sends him to learn advanced kung fu from a legendary master of the martial arts, and the master’s secret is heavy drinking — wine affects him like spinach affects Popeye.

It's ridiculous, and the exaggerated crack-crack sound for every blow gets tiresome, and some of the subtitles are clunky (“Only him are quite enough you”), but so what?

It's an action movie so action is what matters, and there’s plenty, and it's all like nothing you've seen before (unless you've seen other Jackie Chan movies). The training sequences are especially marvelous, but all the stuntman-free stunt-work is breathtaking, and it’s a jolly good time.

Drunken Master II, you’ll be surprised to learn, is a sequel, and like any sequel, it’s disappointing. The fights and stunts are even more amazing than the original, but a movie, even an action movie, cannot live by action alone.

In the first movie Good Guy's father is tough, overbearing, and our hero can’t get away with anything at home. In this sequel, Dad is simply a buffoon, played by a different actor, and both Good Guy and his mother (who was unseen in the first movie) can and do fool him often.

Also, in the first movie Dad wanted his son to learn the "drunken boxing" technique. He sent him away to learn it. After learning it, Good Guy used that technique to save his father's life. But in the second movie, Buffoon Dad is adamantly against his son’s “drunken boxing” technique. Why the change of heart, Dad? It's never explained.

I hate what they've done to Dad — it ruins an essential ingredient, like redoing Full Metal Jacket with Pauly Shore as the drill sergeant. But enough about Buffoon Dad. The furious fighting finale overcomes the sequel’s shortcomings, so you ought to see Drunken Master II, too.

Drunken Master III is now playing at the Great Star Theater in Chinatown, and Drunken Master IV is playing in Hong Kong. Just like Hollywood, anything that’s a hit will be duplicated for as long as people buy tickets. Neither III nor IV has Jackie Chan, though, so why bother?

From Pathetic Life #4
Thursday, September 8, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


Pathetic Life 

← PREVIOUS          NEXT →



← PREVIOUS          NEXT →


  1. Amazon Prime has Drunken Master for $2.99, and the sequel for $3.99...

    1. I am a stickler about this, so please ignore everything that follows.

      I've seen two Jackie Chan movies dubbed into English for mass-release in America, and both were seriously edited and dumbed down, so I still prefer the movies as they were originally released — in Cantonese, with poorly-translated English subtitles. Chan's movies are hard to find in that format, though, and I only have a DVD copy of Supercop.

      I was able to find this version of Drunken Master online, which is free but I haven't watched yet. It's probably better than the Americanized version on Prime.

    2. You are an absolute puritan about your movies.

    3. I think you mean 'purist', not Puritan, but yeah, I am definitely a purist.

    4. You had me at "free."


🚨🚨 BY THE WAY... 🚨🚨
The site's software sometimes swallows comments. If it eats yours, send an email and I'll get it posted.