Home video is a cool way to watch older movies, but everyone knows that nothing beats seeing a film in a theater. You got the big screen, the big sound, and if you’re lucky, a great audiences. What I mean is a theater packed with people highly thrilled by the movie. My personal theater high is the day I saw “Drunken Master 2” at Montreal’s Fant-Asia film festival, in a room packed with howling Jackie Chan fans who cheered every cool move.
If you’re not very aware of Hong Kong cinema, you probably only know Chan’s recent releases such as “Rumble in the Bronx” or “Rush Hour”. These flicks are cool, but you ain’t seen nothing until you see “Drunken Master 2”, arguably the most impressive martial arts movie ever produced. Chan stars as the son of a doctor/kung fu master, during Hong Kong’s first times as a British colony. The film begins as the Master, Chan and Tso, a servant, come back from China with merchandise and must pay taxes to the Brit to get on the train. Chan decides to hide a box of ginseng with the luggage of the 1st class passenger, who don’t have to pay anything. But when he tries to get it back, he stumbles on a guy who was stealing it. Chan chases him around in an extended kung fu sequence, as the thief and him fight on the train, under it and beneath a bridge near by! Just in that first fight, Chan’s abilities are amazing. The man is so fast and agile that it’s hard to believe he’s human! After the fight, Chan returns to the train with a box, but the thing is that it doesn’t contain ginseng but a priceless Chinese artifact that the thief had stolen from the British. The film will have Chan trying to give the treasure back to the Chinese Emperor, but first he has to avoid getting killed by the British oppressors and their army of greedy Chinese goons.
Unsurprisingly, the film is extremely action packed, and each fight is better than the previous. Jackie Chan has never been so cool! His acting is good (he doesn’t have to speak English !), he’s as hilarious as ever and his fighting skills are unbelievable. Chan seems to be quicker than light, and I’m pretty sure that he defies gravity! As the title makes you expect, this film has Chan practicing the unique style of drunken boxing. It’s kinda like regular kung fu, but groovier and more unpredictable. But to use the technique really powerfully, one must get drunk, big time! Chan boozes up twice, once when he faces a bunch of thugs and during the final showdown, and trust me, his performance will blow your mind! Chan acts all drunk and confused, but he’s still as kick ass as it gets! You gotta see him drinking, juggling bottles and beating people all at once!
There are many other brilliantly crafted martial art sequences. There’s one particularly terrific scene in which Chan and some old guy are discussing in a restaurant when they realize that everyone’s gone; even the streets are deserted! That’s when they realize that the place is surrounded by some 100 Chinese badass armed with axes and swords ! And for maybe the next 15 minutes, the two heroes fight back tireless opponents using everything from tables to benches and bamboo sticks. You imagine how fast and imaginative Chan has to be to take care of all these guys at the same time! Another scene is set in the British Consulate, and the climax takes place in a steel mill, where Chan finally meets his match: a long-haired dude with a red hot chain and a pair of businessman types with incredible fighting skills, including one who can do wonders with only one foot!
If you’re familiar with Jackie Chan, you probably know that his films are generally as much about comedy as they are about action. I always find Chan quite funny, but this film made me laugh more than any of his other work. I love how even the non-violence scenes are exciting. there are quite a few parts involving Chan, his parents and servant Tso. It’s all fast-paced comedy, as hilarious and carefully crafted as anything Chaplin or Keaton have ever done. The whole cast has great comic timing, especially Chan and the actress who plays Chan’s mother. “Drunken Master 2” is the kind of picture that achieves to thrill you whatever it gives you, whether it’s humor or kung fu. If you’re looking to have a really wild time, this is the film to see.