Tired of the way Chan is so underutilised by Hollywood film makers, I decided to check out his breakthrough film, Drunken Master, one that I had seen a long time ago.
There's not a lot of plot to this film: Chan plays a troublesome son, Wong Fei-Hong, who is sent away to be tutored by Su Hua-Chi (Siu Tien Yuen) in the art of drunken boxing. After a few mishaps, he learns the skills quickly and returns in him to save his father, the Shaolin master Wong Kei-Ying, from being assassinated.
What is amazing about this film is the choreography of the fight sequences. You can try really hard but it's not easy to notice that the characters aren't really hitting each other. There's a tongue-in-cheek attitude to the fights that have become a trademark in Jackie Chan films.
The characters Wong Kei-Ying, and a younger Wong Fei-Hong, show up in greater style in The Iron Monkey, and Chan playing Wong Fei-Hong shows up again in The Legend of the Drunken Master.
In any event, if you feel the same way that I do about recent Chan films (The Tuxedo, for example) then I highly recommend checking this film out. At least the efforts here are sincere.
Imagine some of the most famous Hollywood stars, like Tom Cruise or Nicholas Cage, in a film with terrible acting, bad dubbing, poor cinematography, and essentially no plot. Would people still hold them in the same regard as they do now? Now think of almost all Jackie Chan films: few will deny that he is extremely talented and charismatic and he is held in extremely high regard despite all these aforementioned features that his films possess. Beyond the amazing martial arts wizardry and death-defying stunt work, that's what makes Jackie Chan so cool and puts him a notch above almost every other actor.
The Legend of Drunken Master showcases why Chan is a legend in his own right. The plot, as usual, is just a bare minimum device to work his magic: the English are trying to steal Chinese treasure. Wong Fei Hong (Chan), a master of "drunken boxing" (a form of martial arts where one finds the right balance between intoxication and sobriety to fight in a manner that completely obfuscates the opponents' moves) gets involved and must restore the stolen treasure to its rightful place.
Wong Fei Hong not only fights the villains using mind-boggling martial arts, but he also outlines every move he throws in the ring ("recovering from a hangover", "down the hatch", etc.). The villains are not pushovers either, and each one of them is a kick-arse martial arts expert. The villain bosses aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and go on a little hand-to-hand combat and get their hands dirty. In the end, they're no match for Wong Fei Hong's drunken boxing.
Chan is the star, but Anita Mui who plans Wong Fei Hong's step mother, almost steals the thunder from him. The chemistry between them is extremely synergistic and pushes the movie to new heights. It's very clear that Chan and the rest of the cast are having a great deal of fun in this film. This level of self-indulgence and self-appreciation carries the movie from the level of entertainment almost up to the level of art. Don't miss this one and try to see it on the big screen.