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Legend of Drunken Master, The (1994) Print E-mail
Monday, 14 September 2009
Image"The Legend of Drunken Master" is one of Jackie Chan's fans' favorites.  There is plenty of martial arts action in the film, but not much else.  Martial arts films are not known to have the most complex plots.  In fact, the films are usually based on honor, revenge or thievery.  This film just so happens to cover the thievery arena.

In Hong Kong the film is better known as Jui Kuen II.  This 1994 film is an unofficial sequel to the Chan's 1978 film, Jui Kuen.  Wong Fei-Hung is the title character in each of the films, portrayed by Jackie Chan both times.  Chan is known for creating some of the most slapstick martial arts humor in the film industry.  Chan has acted in dozens upon dozens of martial arts films in Hong Kong.  In the early 80s Chan received parts in "The Cannonball Run" and "The Cannonball Run II."  However, it was not until 1998 that Chan broke onto the scene in America with "Rush Hour."  The success of the film propelled Chan into American stardom and spawned two sequels.

Since then, Chan has appeared in several action films, such as "The Medallion" and "The Tuxedo," both of which contain martial arts in a humorous fashion.  While the choreography may look silly, it indeed is well staged and executed.  Bloopers almost always come with Chan movies, as it is incredibly difficult to execute the moves.

"The Legend of Drunken Master" centers on the drunken boxing form of martial arts.  Chan stars a Wong Fei-Hung, a master at drunken boxing.  The more that Hung drinks the more he kicks his way across the screen.  The problem is, Hung doesn't know when enough is enough.  His drinking always lands him in hot water with his father.

At the beginning of the film Hung tries to avoid paying taxes on a box of Ginseng.  He therefore stows it in the ambassador's luggage, as the ambassador is free from taxes.  On the train Hung tries to recover the item, but it is mistakenly taken by a martial arts master.  The two engage in an incredible battle, and when it is over each thinks that they have the item that they intended to get.

Back in their village, Hung and his father return to work as physicians.  However, Chan is always messing things up.  When he tries to defend his stepmother's honor, he goes too far with the drunken boxing and is disowned by his father.  Meanwhile, the ambassador is smuggling ancient Chinese artifacts back to Britain.  That is the simple plot of the film.  Several citizens of the village try to find out what the ambassador is up to and stop him.

Hung is the village leader and does everything in his power to stop the ambassador.  In the final martial arts sequence, Hung is able to control the amount of alcohol intake and gets the proportion just right to perform drunken boxing properly.
While the martial arts sequences are quite pleasing to watch, that is about all that there is to this film.  Of course, I'm sure that is way everyone watches martial arts films.

Despite the slightly above average quality of the movie, the video quality is perhaps some of the worst that I have seen on the Blu-ray format.  However, it is difficult to expect much from a low-budget Chinese film from the mid 90s.  Still, improvements could have been made to the video quality given a little extra effort.  Most noticeable with this video transfer is the condition of the source print.  There are noises of all types permeating throughout the film.  There are some that I never have seen before on the Blu-ray format.  There are bright streaks, or scratches in nearly every scene.  There are constant dust and dirt bubbles on the screen.  The color palette is nearly monochromatic.  Only minor splashes of color appear randomly throughout the film.  The image is incredibly flat due to poor black levels.  The boosted contrast levels cause more problems that can be counted.  Details are virtually absent.  When I say the image was soft, I truly mean it.  Noise reduction has blurred the image incredibly.  Although I can't imagine what the amount of film grain must have been before the noise reduction.  Speaking of which, film grain is inconsistent from scene to scene.  Some may find that the Blu-ray transfer is better than the lousy standard DVD transfer, but all in all, the Blu-ray transfer brings out a whole new batch of issues.  Don't expect much from this transfer other than some added resolution.

The film comes to Blu-ray with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.  Only an English dubbed track is available.  There is no original Cantonese audio track present on the Blu-ray.  That being said, this audio track is a laugh riot.  It is truly stereotypical of kung fu films.  The dialogue is very prominent, so much so that it stands readily out of the mix.  The mixture of the music and effects stems with the foreign dialogue stem is rather poor.  Note, the problems with the audio track are mainly due to a lack of cohesion in the original mix.  Of course, more attention could have been paid to this Blu-ray audio track.  The entire audio track is muffled at best.  Dialogue is somewhat intelligible at times, but studies show that intelligibility decreases as the audio becomes more out of sync from the picture.  So in the case of this film the English overdubs aren't anywhere close to the lip movements of the original Cantonese speech.  The rear channels are used here and there, but directionality is poor as is panning.  Everything in this audio track is blended together.  There is no separation between one sound effect and another.  Frequency response and dynamics are limited.  The LFE channel is present, but extremely muddy.  The lossless codec of this audio track brings out all the issues that were not repaired in post-production.

The Blu-ray disc comes with only one bonus feature.  There is an old interview with Jackie Chan that spans about seven minutes.  That is all.

"The Legend of Drunken Master" is entertaining in terms of martial arts.  However, the extremely poor image and audio quality hinders the enjoyment of this film.  I can't recommend upgrading to this Blu-ray unless you are a die hard fan that must contain everything Jackie Chan or martial arts.

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