The Legend of Drunken Master (Blu-ray)
Directed by Lau Kar-Leung
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p VC-1 codec
Running Time: 102 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish, Polish, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: September 15, 2009
Review Date: September 10, 2009
Jackie Chan battles through outrageous slapstick, a relatively mindless tale, and some stunning fight scenes in The Legend of Drunken Master. The notion of “drunken boxing” forms the foundation of Chan’s fight scenes in the movie, but elsewhere the film relies on its slight dramatic tale, some really silly farcical situations, and several over-the-top performances to keep the audience entertained through a slightly overlong action scenario. Chan’s commitment to his craft is commendable, but the film could have been better.
British imperialists are secretly making off with valuable Chinese relics, among them some priceless jade seals, and their pilfering might have gone undiscovered were it not for happy-go-lucky Wong Fei-hong (Jackie Chan) who has his father’s ginseng plant wrapped in a yellow package mistakenly swapped with a piece of the stolen jade. Wishing to fight the robbers using his trademarked “drunken boxing” technique, Fei-hong is stopped by his severe father (Ti Lung) who finds the style of fighting undignified and one step removed from being a full fledged alcoholic. After forbidding his son from fighting in the way that makes him unbeatable with the threat of being disinherited, Fei-hong is beaten unmercifully by the officials knowing there is now no one to stop them taking what they will.
Jackie’s Chan commitment to the fight scenes in this film is nothing short of revelatory (and much of it done without special effects as outtakes shown over the closing credits demonstrate). The numerous fights are choreographed brilliantly and executed with flair by a talented, athletic company, none more so than the rousing, technically complicated climactic face-off in a steel mill between Chan and a half dozen goons out to destroy him. These scenes are so spectacular, in fact, that the remainder of the movie seems rather pale and wan. The slapstick antics of Fei-hong’s stepmother Madame Wong (Anita Mui) lose their snap early on, and Chan’s own inebriated maneuvers away from the fighting don’t always ring true. Impressive, however, is that the film’s somewhat elderly director Lau Kar-leung plays martial artist Master Fu Min-chi in two rousing fights, the first against Chan under and around some railway cars and later on as his ally against a horde of bad guys.
Though agile and athletically superb, Jackie Chan is perhaps a bit long in the tooth to be playing the son of Ti Lung who looks only to be a few years older in the movie. Reprising a role he had made famous years before, however, likely cancels out any negativity about his casting or the casting of the other roles. Ti Lung is a superbly rational and firm parent, the very antithesis of Anita Mui’s continually whining, braying, exacting mother. Low Houi-kang is all one could wish as the sadistic, sneering villain of the piece who dishes out as good as he gets for much of the climactic battle with Chan.
The Techniscope 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. Sharpness is not the highlight of the disc nor can contrast be said to have been dialed to perfection in delivering images that are only average or slightly better in clarity compared to other high definition transfers. Occasional white specks are also giveaways to the film’s age while color is adequately delivered but nothing extraordinary. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English-dubbed track has music and some ambient effects routed through the available surround channels, and while it sometimes makes for an enveloping presence, it’s negated somewhat by the sometimes flat-sounding dubbed dialog that occupies the center channel. There is some slight use of the LFE channel during the most explosive of the fight scenes, but it lies dormant for much of the film’s running time.
“Behind the Master” is a 6 ½-minute interview with Jackie Chan (in English) in which the martial arts specialist is justifiably proud of his accomplishments in this movie, explaining the complicated process of shooting fight scenes for weeks that only run for a few short minutes on screen. Some of the outtakes which are shown during the closing credits are repeated during this featurette with Chan explaining how dangerous the stunts they’re performing actually are. It’s presented in 480i.
The disc offers 1080p trailers of Adventureland, Lost, and The Proposal.
3/5 (not an average)
The Legend of Drunken Master contains the humor and outstanding martial arts fighting which Jackie Chan is known for around the world. The film might have been better written, and the Blu-ray’s video quality might also have been more impressive, but fans will likely be happy to have the film in high definition and lossless sound to add to their collections.