The Legend of Drunken Master

dir. Lau Kar-leung

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Jackie Chan teamed with legendary Shaw Brothers director Lau Kar-leung for this absolutely astonishing period kung-fu epic, one of the all-time peaks of martial-arts cinema.

Returning to period kung-fu films after a series of modern-day action movies, Jackie Chan made what many consider to be his masterpiece with this loose sequel to his 1978 hit Drunken Master. (The film was released in 1994 as Drunken Master II; we are screening the dubbed, retitled and very slightly edited version prepared for North American release in 2000.) Chan once again takes on the role of folk hero Wong Fei-hung, who becomes embroiled in a plot by British officials to steal a valuable Chinese artifact. Forced to fight, Fei-hung must take to the bottle to give his drunken boxing its full, astonishing power (imagine Popeye's spinach, only 100 proof!) and defeat the legions of thugs who soon come after him. Although producer-star Chan and his director, former Shaw Brothers giant Lau Kar-leung (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin), didn't see eye to eye — Chan actually fired him midway through production and took over directing duties himself — the combination of Lau's intricate choreography and Chan's audience-pleasing acrobatics and gleeful mugging results in one of the all-time peaks of martial-arts cinema. The opening set-to between Chan and director Lau underneath a train, an epic bar fight against a gang of axe-wielding assassins, and the final, foot-wagging battle with the chief British henchman are unparalleled examples of Hong Kong kung-fu craftsmanship at its finest.