17 October 2005

100 films: Jui kuen II

starring: Jackie Chan, Lung Ti, Anita Mui, Felix Wong, and Chia-Liang Liu
written by: Edward Tang & Man-Ming Tong & Kai-Chi Yun
directed by:
Chia-Liang Liu
R, 99 min, 1994, Hong Kong

Released in the US under the title Legend of the Drunken Master (i.e. Drunken Master 2), Jui kuen II is the sequel to Jui kuen (1978), the film that made Jackie Chan a star. Chan plays Wong Fei-hung, a master in the discipline of drunken boxing, a form of karate that uses alcohol to losen the body and raise the pain threshold. When the British ambassador begins to steal priceless artifacts, Fei-hung is pressed into duty against his father's wishes.

The copy I saw was unfortunately dubbed, with Chan doing his own voice, but other than that annoyance there's little to dislike. There's a substantial amount of wide-angle lenses used in close quartered fight scenes, but that's probably a technical cheat more than an artistic choice. This is clearly Jackie Chan at the peak of his fight choreography, but what makes the film really stand out is the attention to characters and narrative themes that films of this genre usually lack. At the same time though, the storylines wisely never get in the way of the fighting, but manage to walk that fine line between supplimenting without distracting.

As you'd expect from a kung-fu film, there is the requisite army of bad guys that attack one at a time and elaborate fights that occur for what seems to be no good reason, but the fight choreography is stunning and Chan turns in one of his best performances, especially when fighting drunk. The tension between father and son is well done, and the film continues in the Chan tradition of using humor to suppliment the fighting.

In short: While this is the best of Jackie Chan's films, I don't know if it warrants inclusion over Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.