Screening at Golden Shadows on 1 September 2002:

The Cantonese film gods looked kindly on Jackie Chan during the 1980s when he became Hong Kong's number one box-office star via a series of ground breaking action / adventure movies.

By the early 90s, the worldwide success of the Hong Kong film industry saw Beijing-born martial arts actor Jet Li become the first real threat to Jackie's number one star status. In 1993, Jackie Chan announced he was to film a sequel to his breakthrough 1978 kung fu movie, Drunken Master. This allowed him to legitimately use the Wong Fei-Hong character of that film - thus taking some shine away from Jet Li's more recent, successful reworking of this Canto folk hero in the Once Upon A Time In China series.

As a sequel, Drunken Master 2 couldn't have been more different from the original. It was produced on a huge budget and filmed in mainland locations. It was also co-directed (with Chan) by legendary Shaw Bros. figure Lau Kar-Leung (Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, Tiger on the Beat). Drunken Master 2 was the most eagerly awaited Chinese film of the 1990s. What began as a dream production soon devolved into a nightmare film shoot. Jackie and Lau Kar-Leung had a stormy relationship from day one ; Lau Kar-Leung eventually leaving the film and describing his time with Chan as being like: "two tigers on one mountain". There were even fears that the movie's financial backer, the great Golden Harvest Company, was becoming destabilised by this ongoing, blighted film production.

Six months overdue and wildly over budget, Drunken Master 2 finally premiered in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year of 1994. The film turned out to be a rolled gold smash hit - the highest grossing film of Chan's career. It was also a big success with Asia's film critics who deemed Drunken Master 2 as Jackie's finest hour (104 mins to be exact!). Jackie Chan was back as the undisputed king of Chinese action cinema.

In the following years, the cinematic magic of DM#2 has enthused film fans the world over.

From a bare bones storyline we watch as a "youthful" Wong Fei-Hong (Chan) takes on a gang of European smugglers who are looting ancient Chinese treasures under the guise of cultural exports (sounds familiar?). The China-based British bureaucrats organising this racket are backed up by Chinese gangsters who employ a seemingly endless supply of axe wielding thugs.

The broad comedy of DM#2 revolves around the domestic problems facing Wong, as his father, a respected herbalist, strictly forbids him to learn the drunken kung fu style of fighting. Famous Cantonese actor, Ti Lung (The Magic Blade, A Better Tomorrow, A Killer's Blues), plays the dour father whose many warnings to his son of: "not to arouse trouble", usually signposts a megadose of strife on the way. HK actor / singer Anita Mui (Rumble in the Bronx, Mr Canton and Lady Rose) has the part of Fei-Hong's shrewd mother, a point which Chinese audiences find highly amusing as Mui is ten years younger than Chan. Also appearing in DM#2 is Lau Kar-Leung who has a small but pivotal role as the Militia leader Fu Wen-Chi.

It's a pity that both directors couldn't work together because, ultimately, DM#2 is a first class example of how good these film-makers can be. In the superbly choreographed tea house brawl, we are privileged to see a fascinating blend of old school and new school martial arts film-making. Chan's creative use of "any prop available" is complemented by Lau Kar-Leung's very specific axe and pole fight choreography. When carefully edited together these individual scenes of mayhem create a martial arts mosaic which burns into one's memory.

The tea house melee also changes the tone of DM#2, as it becomes much more serious, eventually leading to a violent finale in a Canton foundry. I won't give much away here, but this tremendous sequence is easily the best fight / action work Jackie Chan has ever achieved (Lau Kar-Leung wasn't involved in any of this filming). In actor Ken Lo, Chan found a near perfect martial arts foil and damm near screen equal. Jackie freely admits this foundry fight is the toughest he had ever filmed. It stands as the high point of Chan's career, and he seems content to see it as just that - because he has never seriously attempted to top this blistering passage of sublime action cinema.

This is the original, uncut version which first played in Melbourne's Capitol Theatre in February '94. It's nearly impossible to find this version on DVD or VCD - with English subtitles. Two years' ago, DM#2 was released theatrically in America in an edited and dubbed form under the title: The Legend of the Drunken Master. In this particular case, I have no hesitation in saying the original DM#2 is the best!


This is the quintessential Jackie Chan film.......
it contains some of the most extensive, jaw-
dropping stunt work and martial art magic
ever amassed together in one feature.

Jackie Chan is a model of acrobatic athleticism
who twists, dodges and twirls his lithe body
almost faster than our eyes can follow




Heroic Cinema
Maintained by Heroic Cinema for Golden Shadows