Jackie Chan's first hit was this still-entertaining mix of comedy and martial arts.
Although his father is a renowned martial arts teacher, Freddy Wong (Jackie Chan) lacks the discipline to become a kung fu master. Still, he is skilled enough to disrupt training classes by making fun of his father's pompous assistant. But when he beats a young bully who has been harassing a local
merchant, the bully's father complains to Master Wong.
In order to teach Freddy discipline, his father decides to have him tutored by Sam Seed (Simon Yuen), an infamously rigorous kung fu master. Although he appears to be a drunken old beggar, Seed is more than a match for Freddy, who takes the first chance he gets to escape. But in the forest he is
humiliatingly beaten by Thunderfoot (Hwang Tang Lee), master of the only kicking technique that has never been defeated. Freddy returns to Seed, ready to learn. After drilling Freddy mercilessly for months, Seed decides to share with him the secrets of his Eight Drunk Gods fighting style. When
Thunderfoot is hired to murder Master Wong, Freddy (aided by a jug of wine) uses his new Drunken Technique to defeat the assassin and save his father.
Although he is renamed "Freddy" in the English dubbing (which is typically atrocious), Chan is playing a young version of Wong Fei-hung, the Chinese folk hero (roughly comparable to Robin Hood) who has been the subject of hundreds of movies, including the ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA series. DRUNKEN
MASTER may seem a little drab to those accustomed to the Hong Kong action films of the 1980s and '90s, but it holds up much better (at least for non-martial arts buffs) than most of its contemporaries. It's an undisguised star vehicle for the likeable Chan and his incredible acrobatic skills, and
even viewers who couldn't care less about which fighting style the combatants are using will enjoy watching him be put through his paces. Sixteen years later, Chan concocted a sequel, DRUNKEN MASTER II (1994), which is even better. (Violence, profanity.)
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