Hong Kong Cinema

Drunken Master 2

Legend of the Drunken Master


Drunken Master 2

Legend of the Drunken Master
  • VHS specs if different are in brackets.
  • Made: 1994
  • Format: R1 DVD (VHS PAL)
  • Release Date: 13/03/01 (1998)
  • Company: Dimension (Chinatown Video)
  • Length: 102 mins (VHS 15 secs longer)
  • Picture: Widescreen 2.35:1 (Letterboxed)
  • Language: Dubbed (Cantonese)
  • Extras: Outtakes, Jackie Interview, Trailer
  • Classification: R (M 15+)


Liu Chia-Liang (Jackie Chan unaccredited)


Jackie Chan, Liu Chia-Liang, Ti Lung, Anita Mui, Ken Lo, Andy Lau


After the success of the New Wave Kung Fu epics of the early Nineties, most notably Once Upon a Time in China I, II & III, Swordsman I & II, Dragon Inn and Fong Sai Yuk I & II (all taking over $20,000,000 HK dollars between 1990 and 1993), it was time for Jackie to reestablish himself as the true master of Kung Fu Cinema. The 1994 Golden Harvest Production of Drunken Master 2 was a resounding success taking over $40,000,000 HK dollars. What made the success all the more poignant is that although Jackie had just had two back to back hits with Crime Story and City Hunter he was no longer considered a force in Kung Fu film-making. His last genuine all out Kung Fu venture Dragon Lord (aka Young Master in Love) was back in 1982! In 1994, the 'big' Hong Kong blockbuster was meant to be Treasure Hunt with Chow Yun Fat, Wu Chien Lin and Gordon Liu. Chow had beens earning a deserved reputation as a genuine crowd puller with his series of Heroic Bloodshed classics and with John Woo and the God of Gamblers series in the previous 8 years. However, Treasure Hunt got mixed reviews and Drunken Master 2 had people cheering and giving standing ovations in cinemas throughout Asia and led many to suggest (including myself) that it is the pinnacle of his decorated and illustrious career.

So what made it so great??

1. Film Studios. This film was a collaboration of the legendary Liu Chia-Liang (pictured left), the inspired director and actor who graced Shaw Brother's classics throughout the 70's and early 80's and Jackie Chan. It was Shaw Brothers meets the golden boy of Golden Harvest. Golden Harvest had struggled for consistent cinematic success since the death of Bruce Lee in 1973 (who notably rejected a Shaw Brothers contract), yet in 1978 Lo Wei loaned out Jackie Chan to Raymond Chow's Golden Harvest to make Snake on the Eagle's Shadow ($2.7m) and Drunken Master ($6.7m). Both were runaway successes at the box office and a new star was born. It was only appropriate that Jackie should reprise the role of the legendary Wong Fei Hung 16 years on in his own comedic yet action packed inimitable style. Although rather acrimoniously Jackie sacked director Liu Chia-Liang halfway through production over a dispute whether to use wires, this turned out to be blessing in disguise as it led to a film that showcased the wonderfully diverse ethos and choreographic styles of Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest.


2. The Action Choreography. Although this is essentially an element of the meeting of two great movie studios, the choreography deserves a section by itself. The first main fight between Liu Chia-Liang and Jackie under a train is classic old skool Kung Fu. What really makes a great old skool fight is normally some classic weapons (a spear and sword in this case) and a highly choreographed scene involving a lengthy interchange with few blows actually being received by either side. This ethos of having a technique with a defensive capacity as well as offensive is how Hong Kong Cinema moved on from the Bruce Lee 'One punch and you're dead' era. It was also a great joy to see Liu fighting again after his classic encounter with Sammo in Pedicab Driver. The first fight could in many ways be described as a display rather than a furious fight, which no doubt appeased old skool fans with Liu being the eventual victor.


The next major fight is when Jackie is encouraged into showing of his Drunken Boxing against a bunch of thugs who stole his Mum's jewels. This is a dazzling fight scene which is expertly styled and is the first time since 1978 that viewers were once again graced with Jackie's rendition of the 8 Drunken Gods. Little more need be mentioned about this classic scene, although it seems to be the first time that wires were used in the film, to aid Jackie doing his horizontal flying head-butt that he popularised in the original.

Although there is a brief encounter between Liu and Ti Lung (another Shaw Brothers regular) which should have lasted longer. The next fight is in the restaurant with Liu and Jackie being surrounded by 200 hired axemen. It really is just top notch with some great balcony falls by Jackie's stunt team. It's really intense and a chaotic fight which is one of the most 'outnumbered' fights I've ever seen!! Liu's character is killed off at the end of this scene and I think his input and directing ceases about a similar time.

The climatic final fight is in many people's top 10 all time fights. It involves Jackie taking on his real life body guard Ken Lo. This scene took 2 months to film and has the Jackie Chan stamp of choreography, stuntwork and directing all over it. Not only does Jackie end up drinking industrial alcohol (at a Steel Furnace), breathing fire balls, being set on fire twice and falling over hot coals (pictured right)!!!! it also boasts a sensational example of how 'wire' Kung Fu is at its best when used to enhance rather than dominate the action.

Ken Lo looks superb as a flash kicking bad guy and is nearly, nearly, nearly as good as Wong's foe in the original, Hwang Jang Lee. I am eager not to overdo the commentary on the end fight as it needs to be watched rather than read about, but I hope this section does justice to the greatness of this film. Bar Ken Lo, I think both Liu and Jackie have had better individual fights in other films (e.g. Wheels on Meals, Legendary Weapons of China) but I think this film is unique and unrivaled in that is displays so many different styles of fighting in terms of choreography, wires, no. of foes, types of weapons, ethos, speed, intensity and filming. The one thing that unites them all is that they display actors of great talent, grace and martial art skill and are all expertly performed.

3. The Acting. Normally the Achilles heel of many great Kung Fu films has been an unconvincing lead or a baddie who is little more than a walking stereotype. I think Anita Miu's performance as the troublesome hand-full that is Wong's mother is funny and definitely draws the best out of her, she is clearly relishing her role throughout. Similarly, Ti Lung puts in another great performance, albeit lacking a good fight scene, after his powerful appearances in A Better Tomorrow I & II. Needless to say the film has a very high standard from the leads and the extras are of unusually impressive pedigree.

4. The Plot and Production. Without wanting to ruin this gem of a storyline, the British are bad guys trying to steal Chinese treasures, Liu Chia-Liang tries to stop them, and inadvertently Jackie gets mixed up and has to use his drunken boxing to save the day! What is remarkable in many ways about the plot is that although the Kung Fu steals the show and is the prize draw, the plot is of such a high standard that it could probably carry a pretty poor cast of martial artist and still make a half decent Kung Fu flick. The balance is perfect, the story is more than just a vehicle for the fight scenes but equally the story invites exactly the right amount of action, it leaves you feeling exhausted but still wanting more. The production is up to post 1990 standards and although occasionally wires are visible the overall feel is slick and definitely not a budget production.

Cripple Kung Fu

The cut 15 sec scene at the end with Jackie doing blind cripple Kung Fu was apparently in bad taste. The censors seem to have overlooked the fact it was also quite amusing...

5. The Two Formats. I have both the Region 1 DVD and the VHS PAL versions of the video (and neither are for sale!!). If you don't have DVD player yet (especially a Multi Region player) then you may need to look for the VHS. My copy is an Australian copy, which used to be available from CDZone, but it doesn't seem to be there any more, it may be worth mailing them. It has subtitles ON the film which always causes problems (i.e. if they are wearing white!) but it does have a 15 second longer ending which has Jackie doing blind cripple Kung Fu (after so much alcohol). This is cut from the Region 1 DVD as it was deemed to be tasteless. The DVD is pretty good, both Widescreen and has a new Dubbed audio track (Dolby 5.1) that is a lot better than most and the film looks good. I am aware that there is a Region 0 DVD (subtitled, Dolby 2.0, lesser picture) floating about which may be worth looking for as I am not aware of plans for a Region 2 release. Either way, it still baffles me that Jackie's best work is not available in this country, yet there are thousands of Bruce Lee rip off films and shite documentaries. Tut tut...shame on you...High Street Video retailers.