Drunken Master II (1994)

Directed by: Lau Kar-Leung & Jackie Chan
Written by: Edward Tang, Yuen Gai Chi & Tong Man Ming
Producers: Edward Tang & Eric Tsang
Starring Jackie Chan, Ti Lung, Anita Mui, Felix Wong, Ken Lo & Lau Kar-Leung

Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1995:
Best Action Choreography (Lau Kar-Leung)

Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1995:
Best Film Editing (Peter Cheung)

Award at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 1994:
Best Martial Arts Direction (Lau Kar-Leung)

It took 15 years but in 1994 fans of Jackie Chan finally got to see a sequel to one of the most loved entries in his filmography and what a sequel it ended up being! You don't have to have seen the original to enjoy this one. It's the character of Wong Fei-Hung that is the same but other than that it stands on it's own as a movie.

The director of the first one, Yuen Woo-Ping was asked to come back and direct Drunken Master II but had to decline due to schedule conflicts. Instead legendary martial arts director and actor Lau Kar-Leung was brought onboard to helm the directing duties. He ultimately left the project without finishing the film due to an disagreement with the producers over his vision of the film. The remaining bits were directed by Jackie himself but the result is still breathtaking.

Jackie plays Wong Fei-Hung, the master of "Drunken Boxing" but his father (Ti Lung) is not approving of his sons use of this technique since it involves excessive drinking. By coincidence Wong Fei-Hung comes in the possession of an ancient Chinese artifact, an event which reveals a plan where ancient Chinese artifacts are smuggled out of Hong Kong by the British. As a cover for this they use a steel factory which will later be the centre stage for the most exciting and best end fight ever!

Do I dare call this the best martial arts movie ever made? Of the actually few I've seen...yes. Personally I even think it beats the Yuen Biao classic Prodigal Son, but not by much. Even if the sequences sans fighting in Drunken Master II were boring (which they're not) , I would still love this film. The story is nothing new or original but is serviceable for a genremovie like this one. It's merely an excuse to throw in some of THE best fights in a Jackie Chan movie ever. Jackie showed that he still had it as a fighter but as usual he does well in the comedic aspect of the story also. It's mostly your typical Hong Kong slapstick but it's funny and works thanks to the wonderful cast of characters in the Wong family.

Ti Lung (Blood Brothers & Spiritual Boxer) was one of the big stars during the kung fu-boom in the 70s but his career also rejuvenated in 1986 when he was cast in John Woos classic A Better Tomorrow. Here he plays it totally straight and serious but it works as a mirror against the comedy and he also displays a nice dignity and authority in his role. I've seen Ti Lung play better characterparts but seeing him in a period kung fu-movie is always a pleasure regardless of the characterdepth.

Anita Mui showed a nice comedic flair in Miracles and she carries that with her in the wacky role of Wong Fei-Hungs mom. Not only is she very beautiful but also quite funny in various scenes throughout the movie. Among the highlights is her introductory scene as well as her interplay with her son during the big town square fight. The script has a few serious scenes which are also handled well by Anita.

The elderly director Lau Kar-Leung has a supporting part and he is also involved in some of the movies more complex fight scenes. He carries himself very well showing no apparent signs of being out of shape and seeing him battle Jackie under the train as well as the short bout with Ti Lung is truly amazing for fans. In a cameo we also see Andy Lau play a part which he would later reprise in Drunken Master III.

The real star of this show is of course Jackie and his suberb display of "Drunken Boxing". He was already good at it in 1979 but here it's just astounding what we get to witness. What makes the fight scenes so good here is it's ferocity and most of all the length of the fights. It's amazing to see such complex fights put together while trying to maintain the flow and a high entertainment factor. I'm sure the awardwinning editor Peter Cheung played a large part in these aspects too. I remember a quote about this movie saying that it had jaw dropping action scenes. For once, I totally agree.

The good thing about the fights is also that it's mostly groundbased with wires only extensively being used in the end. Other than that they're used to enhance the fights rather than making them totally unbelievable. During this era the flying kung fu-choreography was very popular and credit has to go out to the filmmakers for going somewhat against the current trend.

The movies climax has been talked about ever since the movies release. Many will argue that it is THE best end fight ever but I'm too much of a chicken to agree with that statement so I'll say it's the best Jackie Chan end fight ever. I was aware of Ken Lo's acclaim as a screenfighter but that he was THIS good, I couldn't believe. I won't go into details but I will say that the hype surrounding Jackie Chan vs. Ken Lo in Drunken Master II is true! A mention must also go to the sets and photography which are all of high standard and has the feeling of those 1970s martial arts adventures.

I could talk about Drunken Master II all day but to summarize I have to say that it's now my favourite Jackie Chan film and a genuine classic in the genre of martial arts movies.

The VCD:

I bought the vcd version because I wanted to see this movie in it's original uncut form. The Disney dvd release is dubbed and has one scene cut out of it and the Hong Kong dvd is cropped from it's original aspect ratio. The VCD is correctly presented in 2.35:1 widescreen with Cantonese language (plus Mandarin on the other audio track) and English subtitles.

The print itself has a number of specks but fewer than I expected actually. Pixelation was more present in the beginning parts of the film but kept to a minimum throughout. The colours are murky and detail is quite weak but it was still a good way to watch this movie.

The mono Cantonese track was nothing to praise but it did it's job and dialogue and music sounded ok.

The English subtitles were of pretty good quality spelling wise but the font used was a little too wide which made them slightly hard to read at times. You could easily follow what was going on though.

This vcd release is now out of print and replaced by a version that is missing the final scene. I'm not sure if that even has English subtitles either, so go for this version, if you can find it.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson