Drunken Master (1978) – Woo-Ping Yuen

Jackie Chan debuts on the 101 Action Movies list with this Kung-Fu classic that cemented Chan’s style of stunning fight sequences with a comedic streak. Directed by Woo-Ping Yuen, who would later become the fight choreographer of such films as The Matrix, Drunken Master is a fun romp and a favorite amongst fans of the genre.

While the story is minimalist at best, the fight sequences are incredible, fast, and with Chan constantly entertaining. The story follows Wong Fei-Hung “Freddy” (Chan) an undisciplined but exceptional Kung-Fu student after getting into one too many fights, one with a thug of an important, but shady businessman, and getting his butt roundly kicked by a woman we later learn is his visiting aunt, his father decides he’s had enough and sends Wong off to train under the tutelage of Su Hua Chi (Siu Tien Yuen), the legendary, if intoxicated master of the 8 drunken gods style, who is also notorious for torturing his students endlessly.

drunken_master___freddy_wong_and_beggar_su_by_kriegdersterne77-d55k165Su holds his own against Freddy, and the two of them have a hilarious relationship together that makes for some great screen time.

Also wandering the lands is Thunderleg (Jang Lee Hwang) who seems to be a bit of a bounty hunter and will kill you for the right amount of money. He beats hell out of Hung during their first encounter, and of course sets up the climax of the film when the two face off again when Hung’s father won’t agree to sell some land.

That’s about as deep as the plot gets, the rest is just a number of set-ups for some dazzling fight sequences allowing the fighters to exhibit a variety of martial arts.

drunken_masterChan seems right at home, and can alternately deliver a wonderfully comedic line while putting on an incredible display. I’ve always had the highest respect for his performances as he does all his own stunts and some of them are just insane.

I think the fact that nothing is taken too seriously in this film just helped me enjoy it all the more. There are a number of fight sequences I loved, the final one of course, the fight with the staff, and the training sequences were hilarious, because Wong was always trying to get out of it, making for some very fun sequences.

fightEverything about this film still works. It’s fun, entertaining, it was actually just the thing I needed the night I watched it. It took my mind off my troubles for a while. Would I have wished for more of a story? Sure! But the action sequences more than made up for it.

It’s easy to see how Jackie Chan has the fanbase he does, because in this role he exudes charm, and just comes across as being so damned likable. The humor runs from the slapstick to the zing of a one-liner, and I just found myself settling right into this one, and having a grand ole time. It was a hoot!

I’ll admit that I haven’t seen tons of Chan’s work, but know that there is at least another one on the list to take in. With such a lengthy filmography I’d imagine not all of his films are winners, so what other Jackie Chan features should I check out?


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sean says:

    Hah! My mom loved hong kong cinema and we watched tonnes of kung fu movies. Check out the Legend of the Drunken Master which is the sequel to Drunken Master. Rumble in the Bronx is Chan’s Hollywood breakout film, and is worth seeing as well.

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Yeah, saw Rumble in the Bronx, will add Legend to my list though!

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