Drunken Master (1978)
The brash young man, Wong Fei-Hung takes his mischief too far, his father has him disciplined by a master of drunken martial arts.
Director: Woo-Ping Yuen
Writers: Lung Hsiao (as Hua-An Hsi), See-Yuen Ng
Stars: Jackie Chan, Siu Tin Yuen, Jung-Lee Hwang
Many people know the legendary character Wong Fei Hung; especially from the Once Upon A Time in China franchise of films. And the picture of this true-life legend is one of a solemn master; composed, calm, highly revered, and a true symbol of the spiritually evolved human being. Drunken Master reveals another, lesser known, or possibly even apocryphal version of this enigmatic character; as a young, brash, comedic character learning martial arts.
Fei Hung is always causing trouble and getting into trouble! In a series of unfortunate events, he challenges the wrong people, beats up the wrong people, and even flirts with the wrong people to finally incur the wrath of his father who decides the only way to curb his foolish ways is by harder, stricter and more tedious martial arts training. Hung soon runs away to escape his new restrictive martial arts lessons.
Even on his way he gets into trouble again; trying to con a restaurant owner into giving him a free meal, and ends up in a fight with the owner’s thugs. It is here that he meets, and is helped by, Beggar So; another enigmatic character often associated with Fei Hung’s uncle in some versions of the story.
This master earns his respect after Fei Hung realizes his own inadequacy and finally submits to his way of teaching. He then learns the unique Drunken style involving eight distinct styles within it.
Drunken Master reveals another, lesser known, or possibly even apocryphal version of this enigmatic character; as a young, brash, comedic character learning martial arts.
The rest of the story is also pretty linear; with a mercenary being sent by enemies to kill Fei Hung’s father and Hung and Beggar So intervening to save him.
Beggar So, however, decides not to interfere and the final act is this climactic fight between the mercenary and Fei Hung. But this mercenary is no push-over; he is the legendary and much feared “Thunderfoot” known to be undefeated for his shattering kicking style; too powerful and too fast for most martial artists of the time.
Fei Hung has by now learnt and mastered 7 of the styles within the drunken style, but with all his prowess he is still unable to beat this formidable enemy. In an interesting turning point, Beggar So asks him to improvise, merge all 7 styles and create his own eighth version of the form. Fei Hung succeeds in this stupendous feat of skill and creativity to finally overpower his formidable foe.
This is one of those action-comedy movies that has enough serious martial arts to hold its own among the best kung-fu films. Jackie Chan's buffoonery belies his skill, speed, agility as a martial artist, and this film showcases some of his best work - in spite of the slapstick and gags. Chan's repertoire spans an entire spectrum of styles. But the most dramatic, of course, is the drunken style where Chan's grace and guile combine for a stunning display of his incredible mastery of kung fu.
The film was extremely well received as a serious martial arts film despite its comic approach and light storyline. Scoring a 7.5 on IMDB this 1978 classic has held its place in the hall of fame among the true greats in the martial arts genre!