Film & DVD Review
Jackie returns with his portrayal of folk hero Wong Fei Hung and drunking boxing. This time, the British Consul in China is masterminding a plot to steal Chinese treasures and smuggle them to Britain where they will go on display in museums. As a front for this operation, the British use a steel factory in Fei Hung's village, and after going a step too far it becomes up to Fei Hung to stop them.
Drunken Master II film has Jackie Chan re-take his role as Wong Fei Hung, in a sequel to his early classic the Drunken Master. Things have moved on since the times of the original, with the quality of the fight choreography having improved ten fold, and in this film Chan pushes some elements to the limits.
"I'm a little tea-pot, short and stout, here's my handle..."
Chan's Wong Fei Hung is a young guy who is always in trouble. His dad does not agree to him fighting, and strictly forbids him from using his Drunken Boxing. However, somehow Fei Hung always finds himself in situations where he has to fight. The plot in Drunken Master II is not the strongest or deepest plot that you are ever likely to see, but it serves its purpose in that it brings with it differnt scenarios in which it is required for Chan to display his fighting abilities as Wong Fei Hung. But, just so that you know roughly what the film is all about I'll give a brief summary of the plot. The British Consul in China is masterminding a plan to smuggle Chinese treasures out of the country, in order that they can be put on display in museums in England. A steel factory in Fei Hung's village becomes the front for the illegal dealings, and it ends up being up to Wong Fei Hung and his friends to put a stop to it. That's pretty much it. No twists or anything like that, just a reasonably linear story which does what it has to do.
"Now that spear was too close!"
The fight scenes themself are stunning. Chan always looks so graceful, yet immensely powerful and is even convincingly drunk while performing his drunken boxing. The fight scene in the tavern is particularly memorable, as Chan and his associate are fighting about 30 people at the same time, and even look to be winning in places! I imagine the choreography for such a fight scene would be more complex and demanding than it looks, and believe me it looks pretty damn complex! My only quibble is that I was under the impression that this version of the film was uncut, but in this tavern fight scene the camera is on Chan fighting a group of axe wielding maniacs, it then cuts to Lau Kar Leung fighting, then when it cuts back to Chan, he is underneath a table being boxed in. There was no explanation as to how or why he got there, which I find strange. The only thing I can think of is that there were a little bit cut. I could be wrong though. All in all though, the fight scenes in Drunken Master II are among the best Chan has done (which I have seen).
"Look at my form... good, huh?"
Credit must also be given to the main bad guy in the film, Ken Lo. His kicking ability is quite simplt incredible. There appears to be nothing that this guy can't do with his legs. He can kick continuously with either leg, without ever needing to put his foor down. I was in absolute awe watching him kick, and it shows just what a lot of training can do!!
While the stunts are also quite amazing to watch, there is nothing as "death defying" looking compared to other films. I don't mean by that that the stunts are tame, far from it, but there weren't any of the big jumps, big drops that you see in so many other Chan films. However, stunts like the ones in the iron works, where he throws himself onto actual burning coals still takes a hell of a lot of guts!
"I'm not going to smell your arm pits..."
The best thing about Drunken Master II in the light relief sense, undoubtedly has to be Fei Hung's mother, hilariously portrayed by Anita Mui. There is not a single scene where what she is saying or doing is not comical. From the "treating" her mahjhong partners, or her telling her husband that she is pregnant, I was in stitches watching her. Her style and humour perfectly compliments Chan's own brand of humour, making the film all the more enjoyable. In my opinion she stole most of the scenes she was in, and the film is worth seeing for her alone! You've got classic action, classic fights, and classic humour - What a combination!!!
"Concentrate... that is the key to enlightenment."
Audio & Subtitles
Sound wise, Drunken Master II is pretty decent. The sound track is clear, crisp and I cannot complain at all about the quality of what I heard throughout the film. However, after that it is downhill, a little bit. The audio track I chose is in Cantonese, but the lip synchronisation is off by a fraction of a second, which is long enough to be distracting at times, once it has been noticed. That being said, everything was still clear and audible, as I watched this film with my (now ex-)girlfriend, who is Chinese, and she didn't once complain or comment on the spoken word. I took that as a good sign!
"Look on my sole would you... I didn't step on dog crap, did I?"
Subtitle wise things were not so good. There were reasonably frequent gramatical errors, spelling errors were common too, and there were also quite a few instances of direct translation from the cantonese, which unfortunately just did not make too much sense in English! The subtitles, in places, were also apparently simplified a bit, as, again thanks to my ex-girlfriend pointing out to me, what was written at the bottom of the screen was not always the same meaning as what was being said. However, it was not key moments where this occured so the plot could still be followed with ease. The positioning of the subtitles is a good point. They are over the actual film print, right at the bottom of the screen, meaning that on a widescreen TV, you can zoom the print to fill the whole widescreen and not have the subtitles cut off! They are bold, big and clearly legible, even on liighter backgrounds.
"This move is called the dancing back fist."
The print of this film was on the whole ok. There were quite a few places where grain and speckle (don't know if that is a technical term, but I'm going to use it anyway) are noticeable on screen, which is a little disappointing, as the film is not that old. However, this isn't too troublesome as it is only in places. No scene struck me as being particularly spectacular looking, which given some of the scenes in the film, suggests that maybe the resolution detail was not that brilliant for the transfer to dvd. I'm not technical in those matters so I've no idea if what I've just said makes any sense, but I've seen films where I thought "Wow!" because of the clarity of detail that I could see, and the crispness of it (HKL's Miracles for example), but I did not once get that feeling while watching Drunken Master II.
"I'm sorry, but my chopsticks are just too big."
DVD & Extras
In the extras department - Zippo. Nadda. Nowt. None. VERY disappointing. Other than owning an uncut version of the film on DVD (which is really enough, it has to be said!), there are no extras or other special features to entice people into purchasing Drunken Master II. What there is in the menu screen is the "play movie", "scene selection", "audio selection" and "subtitle selection". For people who can't read Chinese these menues may prove a little bit tricky, and some trial and error will be needed, as they are written solely in Chinese characters. Fortunately, my ex-girlfriend, again, came to my rescue here and was able to read and translate them for me! It is a disappointing static menu page.
"Uh oh, were in trouble..."
I cannot do anything but recommend this film, simply because the fighting and the stunts are quiet outstanding. Each and every fight scene displays Chan's grace, strength, dexterity, ability and agility quite superbly. Like most of his films, I cannot help but feel completely over-awed with what I am seeing him do. It is simply breath-taking. In some ways it wouldn't make a difference what langauge the film was in, and even if there were no subtitles, I could still enjoy the film immensely as it's the multitude of set pieces that are what the film is about. The brilliant choreography, along side Chan's trademark slap stick humour make the film a sure-fire winner, with the added bonus of Anita Mui who, as Wong Fei Hung's mother, is hilarious. Despite the flaws of the subtitles and the lack of anything else on the disc, I've still got to give the film a strong recommendation.
He really regretted last night's drinking when he woke up...
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