The Drunken Master II
Drunken Master II (Chinese: 醉拳二; Cantonese Yale: Jui Kuen II) is a 1994 Hong Kong action-comedy kung fu film directed by Lau Kar-leung and starring Jackie Chan as Chinese martial arts master and a Cantonese folk hero, Wong Fei-hung. It was Chan's first traditional style martial arts film since Fearless Hyena Part II (1983). The film was released in North America as The Legend of Drunken Master in 2000.
The Drunken Master II
Back in Canton, Wong gives the client a root from his father's favourite bonsai to pass off as the ginseng. Wong's stepmother, Ling, complicates things when she tries to help Wong by loaning her necklace for money for Wong to buy a new ginseng; their neighbours mistakenly believe that the Wongs are in financial difficulty. In the meantime, the British consul sends his henchmen to track down Wong and seize the Imperial Seal. A fight breaks out between Wong and the henchmen when the latter try to snatch a bag from Ling, thinking that it contains the Seal. At Ling's instigation, Wong gets drunk and uses drunken boxing to beat up the henchmen until his father shows up and stops him. The older Wong is furious at his son for embarrassing their family by getting drunk and fighting in public. To make matters worse, the client falls sick after consuming the fake ginseng and his wife informs Wong's father about it. After he learns the truth behind the ginseng and bonsai, the older Wong becomes so angry that he hits his son and chases him out of the house.
When Wong tries to drown his sorrow by drinking heavily, he gets beaten up and publicly humiliated by the henchmen because he is too drunk to fight back. After his family saves him and brings him home, Wong feels deeply ashamed of his drunken behaviour and apologizes to his father, saying that he will never drink again. Meanwhile, Fu Wen-chi visits the Wong residence and tells them about the British consul's smuggling operation. The next day, Fu and Wong are attacked at a restaurant by the Axe Gang, a group of thugs hired by the consul. Fu is fatally shot and the Imperial Seal is taken by the consul's men. Before dying, Fu implores Wong and his friends to retrieve the Seal and stop the consul from stealing Chinese artifacts.
One night, Wong and his friend, Tsang, disguise themselves and break into the British consulate. They are caught, assaulted and held for ransom by the consul, who demands that Wong's father sells his land in exchange for their release; the older Wong reluctantly agrees. Later, Wong's friends discover that the British consul is planning to smuggle the stolen artifacts out of Canton using boxes meant for steel shipments. They inform Wong and Tsang, who then join the workers in a violent protest at the British-owned steel factory against the consul's abuses. Out of desperation, he breaks his promise and drinks again in order to use drunken boxing technique to defeat the main bad guy. After a long fight, Wong and his friends defeat the consul's henchmen and put an end to the smuggling operation. At the end of the movie, a Chinese general presents the Wongs a commemorative plaque to honour them for their service to the country only to find that Wong has suffered brain damage due to his drinking.
Thakral's region 0 DVD release of Drunken Master II was the only official DVD which featured the uncut version with proper English subtitles. However, instead of the original Hong Kong theatrical version, it contains the Chinese print. The Chinese print is identical to the Hong Kong print except for one major difference: the scene of Fei-Hung drunkenly singing at the outdoor restaurant is re-cut and re-edited with alternative footage so that Fei-Hung is singing a different song in Mandarin instead of Cantonese. Thakral's aspect ratio is cropped to 1.78:1 from the original theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
Of all the films in Chan's back-catalogue that received North American theatrical distribution, Drunken Master II was cut the least. A scene in which Wong drunkenly sings at a café was re-cut slightly, making use of a few alternate takes not seen in the original Cantonese version. In addition, a 35 second cut was made to the concluding scene of the film which showed Wong blinded and mentally crippled as a result of drinking industrial alcohol during the film's ultimate fight. Played for laughs, the scene was considered to be in bad taste by the American distributor, Dimension Films.
The English dub also makes references to animal kung fu styles such as Drunken Monkey, as well as made-up names for random moves during the first two instances that Wong Fei-hung uses drunken boxing. The original dialogue referenced the Eight Drunken Immortals technique, which was also featured in Drunken Master (1978) based on the real-life Daoist style of Drunken Fist. The change was most likely done to compensate for the general western audience's unfamiliarity with Chinese mythology and the first film.
A half dozen years after its Asian release, and over two decades after the original Drunken Master made Jackie Chan a star in Hong Kong, The Legend of Drunken Master may be the most kick-ass demonstration yet, for the majority of American moviegoers, of what the fuss is all about: To many aficionados (who know the video as Drunken Master II), this 1994 favorite, remastered and dubbed in "classic" bad Chinese-accented English, showcases Chan in his impish glory, dazzling in his ability to make serious, complicated fighting look like devil-may-care fun.
As sublime as Chan ever was on-screen. That he and Lau clashed so turbulently over the choreography is strange as none of that tension is in the perfect fluidity of the direction and motion, from the camera's elegant little darting slides to follow Chan's movement to those movements themselves. The drunken boxing is the acme of Chan's comic and action chops, a giant slurred motion in which he is always in motion and thus makes every dodge as thrilling as it is absurd. Undulating as if de-boned, he slithers and bends to such a degree that he even does the damn worm in the middle of a fight. Add Lau's exceptional corralling of space, not only in the immediate vicinity of Chan but in some of the more elaborate scenes where action is happening in multiple distance planes and levels of vertical alignment, and you've got a short-list candidate for best kung-fu movie of all time.
Parents need to know that the movie features non-stop fighting, mostly of the cartoon variety. One important character is killed, but most of the time the characters are unhurt or, if they are hurt, the wounds disappear before the next scene. There are are few uses of "s--t" and other profanities. Some parents will be concerned about "drunken boxing," in which liquor affects Fei-Hong the way spinach affects Popeye. As Fei-Hong's father tells him, though, "A boat can float in water -- and sink in it." And when Fei-Hong overdoes the liquor, he is very sorry. Fei-Hong's father beats him and disowns him, but later takes him back with love and pride. Fei-Hong has a warm relationship with his young and beautiful stepmother, but she is very manipulative, faking crying to get her way.
THE LEGEND OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER is a sequel to the movie that made Jackie Chan an international star. Though it was made 15 years later than the first, it takes place immediately after the first, set in turn-of-the-century China. Wong Fei-Hong (Chan) is the son of a distinguished and wealthy doctor. As they board a crowded train following the purchase of herbs, Fei-Hong hides the container of ginseng in another man's luggage, to avoid paying duty. Fei-Hong's package is exchanged for one containing a valuable antique box. This leads to the discovery that many antiquities are being smuggled out of the country. Fei-Hong is a specialist in "drunken boxing" (using liquor to "make the body looser and its pain threshhold higher"), and he uses his fighting skill to take on the bad guys.
While Fei-Hung has to drink to unlock the peak of his style of kung fu in "Drunken Master II," his demeanor and general drunkenness are treated as a flaw in the film. Picking fights is the impetus for the film's plot, with Wong's family items being switched with those being smuggled out of China by antagonistic British officials during a duel that didn't need to happen. Likewise, Fei-Hung's drunkenness gets him into more fights and almost causes his father to lose his land.
This 16-years later sequel -- which arrived in the U.S. six years after that -- suffers from the lengthy time lapse: Jackie Chan plays the same childlike vagabond from the previous edition, but it's tough to be amused when a grown man is disciplined with whipping by his father (Ti Lung), who looks younger than the son, while the helpless mother (Anita Mui) watches -- and it's done for laughs. But Hong Kong action film story lines typically call for a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, so in that regard, scenes such as that -- and the one in which Mui is punched in the jaw and then talks out of the side of her mouth for comic effect -- are to be expected. The highlights of The Legend of Drunken Master, as with most of Chan's films, are the action set pieces, and the several that punctuate this work are spectacular. Particularly effective is the "drunken" boxing that gets Chan out of several jams; he drinks to excess just before a fight and then, the alcohol working miraculously quickly, he staggers to victory by leaning into kicks and punches and springing up from the ground like a clownish, tireless, inflatable punching bag. It's amazingly creative stuff. The sequence in which Chan and a cohort take on an entire army of martial artists and destroy a two-story tavern in the process is only upped by the finale versus the villain, which takes place on a smoldering bed of red-hot coals. The outtakes at the end of the film suggest the coals were real -- as was Chan's understandable terror.