It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Jackie Chan's "The Legend of Drunken Master" is quite simply amazing. It involves some of the most intricate, difficult and joyfully executed action sequences I have ever seen. If you have any interest in seeing a Jackie Chan martial arts film, then this is the one to see. Filmed in 1994 but not given a wide North American release until now, it is considered by those who have seen most of Chan's 70-plus films to be one of his two or three best.
When I did a seminar at the Hawaii Film Festival several years ago, comparing the physical comedy of Chan and Buster Keaton, martial arts fans brought in their bootleg Hong Kong laser discs of this film and told me that I had to see the final 20-minute fight sequence. They were correct. Coming at the end of a film filled with jaw-dropping action scenes, this extended virtuoso effort sets some kind of benchmark: It may not be possible to film a better fight scene.
But before I describe it, some general comments: 1. Most of Jackie Chan's plots exist only as clotheslines on which to hang the action scenes. Characters are thin, the dubbed dialogue ranges from rudimentary to inane, and the climax comes not at the end of the story but during the outtakes, when we see Jackie really getting hit, burned, dropped, slammed, etc. The man seems to spend half of his life on a hospital stretcher or having fire extinguishers aimed at him.
2. At least half the running time consists of violence, but this is curiously innocent, harmless violence--not the brutal and ugly stuff of many Hollywood action pictures. There are villains and heroes, and a fight needs two sides, but everyone on both sides is in superb physical condition and seems to be fighting largely for the fun of it. Between the action, Jackie hams it up with broad humor. To rate this movie R is to be terminally clueless.