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Drunken Master

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***½

Pay? I’ve forgotten how! and my other favorite Robert Wong, I’ll fix you!

jackiechan

It makes sense within the context of the movie, I swear.

If you watched Fist of Legendand found it to have a jarring style, then I can only imagine how my cheap late 1990’s dubbed copy of Drunken Master would strike you. As annoying as the bad dubbing and over the top sound effects are, the pros outweigh the cons. Since the cons are readily evident from the first minute of the movie, I will not waste our time on them, so here are the pros:

  • Young Jackie Chan is amazing.
  • “Freddy” is the dubbed version of Fei-Hung. Because Jackie Chan plays young Wong Fei-Hung! The greatest Chinese martial arts hero ever. For other evidence see Once Upon a Time in China and Iron Monkey.
  • Drunken Master is called Jui kuen in the original, which I imagine sounds cool.
  • Traditional Chinese (not sure which region’s) food looks amazing.
  • NEVER BRING A WEAPON TO A FIST FIGHT WITH THE AWESOME STAR OF A KUNG FU MOVIE!
  • The music playing during the punishment montage is phenomenal and hilarious. The training montages throughout showcase how amazing of an athlete Chan is.
  • BOLO!!!!! For more of him see Enter The Dragon and Bloodsport. Classic villain. No good google images of him from this movie though.
  • The Drunken Master himself, Sam Seed, aka Su Hua Chi by Siu Tin Yuen. And his stunt double, whose name I do not know.
  • Jackie Chan would have made an amazing pro wrestler because he can sell1 so well, which is best shown when Thunderleg (Jang Lee Hwang) kicks his ass.
  • Yuen Woo-Ping directed this. While he may not have been the best director, he is the greatest fight choreographer of all-time.
  • The alcohol shakes used for comedic purposes! This film is pretty damn insensitive.
  • Jackie Chan doing the eight drunk gods. Except Miss Ho, that one he refuses to take seriously.
  • Proto Jackie Chan shenanigans.
  • The end fight scene against Thunderleg.
  • AND the ending coming 15 seconds after the climax.

The term “selling” means to react as if actual damage has been inflicted.

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Fist of Legend

2 Comments

****½
Men don’t have to tell women everything.
Hou Ting-An (Chin Siu Ho) and Chen Zhen (Jet Li) battle for mastery of Jingwu Martial Arts Academy, Fist of Legend, 1994.

Hou Ting-An (Chin Siu Ho) and Chen Zhen (Jet Li) battle for mastery of Jingwu Martial Arts Academy, Fist of Legend, 1994.

Watching this movie for the first time in over a decade I realize that my memory correctly identified this as one of the greatest kung fu films of all time. This singlehandedly reminded me why I loved Jet Li so much. It is difficult to express how awesome this movie was to me when I was 16. I rank this between The Shawshank Redemption and Clerks on my Best of 1994 list.  So, allow me to tell you why it is so great and what lessons one needs to help appreciate its greatness.
Everyone knows Jet Li, or at least recognize him on sight. When I mention Yuen Woo Ping I wonder how many people remember him.  Well this movie is from 1998 and one year later he was choreographing THE MATRIX. Put another way, the Wachowskis basically said, you’re welcome white people, for hiring him to do that. This is not Yuen’s most famous movie, but it ranks up there as one of his very best.
Even with Yuen’s American appreciation, the style of the movie will be jarring. In fact, it is probably much more so now, unless you like classic Kung Fu—as the 1970s are now four decades ago. The style is like a better acted version of Bruce Lee’s classics like The Chinese Connection and Fist of Fury. That is appropriate since this is…a remake of The Chinese Connection! The movie is set before World War II and the Japanese are mostly the villains, yet some of them are respected and loved. In particular the Karate master Funakoshi (Yasuaki Kurata) shows the honor that Japanese men can embody. Along with that sensei’s niece Mitsuko (Shinobu Nakayama) who loves Chen Zhen.  In fact, this might have the least propaganda of Jet Li’s Chinese movies, but it also serves to highlight how propaganda is just one form of art with a message.
Throughout my viewing there were so many times when I thought, “oh this is the best part”, because it has been so long since I watched a movie like this. This happened in the following scenes:
A. When the Chinese get portrayed as equally racist as the Japanese, in a Chinese movie.
B. When the movie jumps to tackle so many issues, from forbidden love to duty.
C. Blindfold fight scene/hay fight with Funakoshi.
D. Locals turning on the hero!
E. The demonstration of the antagonist’s (Billy Chow) strength.
F. And last, but not least, the music of Steve Edwards. I am pretty sure he must’ve done Police Academy.
So if this foreign film is foreign to you, do not let it remain so! If you love kung fu, this is the movie for you. If you do not like kung fu, then this is a great way to fall in love with it.

Big Night

1 Comment

***

Give people what they want, then later you can give them what you want.

In 1996 Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott made a pretty depressing movie about Italian immigrants who own/run a restaurant in New York City in the 1950s. I do not know why they made this movie, maybe because Tucci knew Italian and wanted a vehicle to showcase this ability. He is very good in it, however it is Tony Shalhoub playing a convincing Italian chef, Tucci’s brother, Primo, who steals the show.

Primo and Secondo,  yes, their names are first and second, which ranks up there with George Foreman naming all of his boys George Foreman in the stupid names department, have a failing restaurant and upon the advice of a crazy Italian Ian Holm try to salvage everything with one more big night. Ladies and love (Minnie Driver gave the best performance among the actresses) get mixed up with the financial troubles and it is hard to root for anyone among these characters, but I guess that is Campbell Scott’s forte.

That's not the soup nazi, I swear!

Secondo and Primo (Tucci and Shalhoub) with Marc Anthony in the background.

The film lacks a true personified villain. Seemingly, Millsian utilitarianism and capitalism are the antagonists. I agree that they are ripe targets for conquest and for the unassailable forces of tragedy, but an amazing, yet unprofitable chef with a big mustache failed to maintain a truly compelling story. If this review strikes you as bland and haphazard, but entertaining and well crafted in parts, then I have succeeded in conveying the sensations from this film.