Drunken Master
(Jui kuen) (1978)
Directed by Woo-ping Yuen

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

DVD In Association with
Rent DVDs online!
In the USA:
Try Netflix For Free.In the UK:

Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan), an irresponsible and arrogant young scoundrel, is forced by his father to train under the legendary martial artist Su Hua-Chi (Siu Tien Yuen), whose unusual fighting techniques are best performed while drunk. Having completed his yearlong training, Wong is conveniently presented with an opportunity to test his new abilities when an assassin is sent to murder his father.

Woo-ping Yuen's Drunken Master is an entertaining, exciting, and genuinely funny movie. Dispensing with any coherent narrative, the director instead presents only a series of tangentially related incidents, each of which leads to a fight or propels Wong into some predicament. The scenario with which the film concludes is, for example, absolutely arbitrary and forced. It does, however, provide an excuse for the movie's longest and most elaborate fight, and that was, surely, the only reason it was included.

Fortunately, this and the movie's other extremely frequent combat sequences are among the best I have seen in any kung fu film. Several are surprisingly humorous, others are exhilarating, and still others are graceful and balletic. The fighting techniques taught by Su Hua-Chi, which, he says, are best performed while inebriated, are not only strange and funny, but they are also surprisingly well realized, genuinely interesting, and are suffused with a potent legendary feel. The other fighting techniques featured in the movie are skilfully presented as well, and all imbue Drunken Master with a wonderful excitement.

What is more, both of the leads acquit themselves well. Siu Tien Yuen is consistently amusing as the staggering, inebriated, red nosed Su Hua-Chi, and Jackie Chan, despite his portraying a selfish, irresponsible rogue, is as likeable as he always is. Both demonstrate far greater acting skills than do most of the other players. A number of the performances in the movie are, in fact, absolutely dreadful.

Virtually plotless, often poorly acted, and somewhat ineptly filmed, Drunken Master is, nevertheless, thanks to its various odd elements and constant and exciting action sequences, a fun and appealing movie.

Review by Keith Allen

Home Page / Alphabetical List of Films
List of Films by Star Ratings
Aesthetic Principles / Guide to Ratings
Criteria for Inclusion / DVD Stores / Blog

© 2005 Keith Allen. All rights reserved.

Click Here

banner 2