October 26, 2000

Want a Chan of Beer?

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If anything, Legend of Drunken Master demonstrates that Jackie Chan is, without a doubt, the man. When most people get drunk, they stumble around like jerks before waking up naked in a field somewhere the next morning, covered in shaving cream and surrounded by cows. When Jackie Chan, the man, gets drunk, he lays the smack down more copiously than ever.

Originally released back in 1994, this is the latest of Chan’s older films to be dubbed and released for American consumption. It is a demonstration of the attempts of movie studios to cash in on his newfound popularity in the States.

Chan plays Wong Fei Long, a student of the Drunken Boxing form of Kung Fu. When Long drinks, he gains superhuman power and skill, kind of like Popeye if Popeye were created in the early ’90s for the Fox network by a team of dysfunctional alcoholic writers.

Legend isn’t exactly your standard Jackie Chan movie. For one, the movie sports a plot slightly deeper than the usual hit-bad-guy-save-girl — this one involves preventing corrupt colonial officials from smuggling Chinese artifacts out of the country (admittedly this is done by hitting said corrupt officials).

There’s also a greater emphasis on showing off the actors’ martial arts prowess. The film has plenty of Chan’s trademark physical comedy and sanity-defying stunts, but it also sports some of the most amazing, elegantly choreographed fight scenes in contemporary cinema.

Almost equally amazing is the quality of the film’s dubbing. Normally, dubbing is like switching to PBS and finding porn: it’s shocking, jarring, out of place, and not at all what you’d expect coming from the characters on screen. Bad dubbing can kill a good Kung Fu movie.

Not so with Legend. Sure, there’s still a prevalence of mouths moving minutes after the voice has stopped, but the voice actors do an admirable job of delivering their lines naturally — some even have a Chinese accent. Ironically the stiffest dub jobs come from the British characters, who are supposed to speak English.

Legend definitely isn’t a movie for everyone. The fight scenes are slightly more graphic than previous Chan films released in America (both Chan and the bad guys get bloodied on several occasions). And there’s also a scene where Wong’s father lays down some old school Asian family discipline (read: caning) that might make viewers uncomfortable.

But for those who consider themselves fans of action films, martial arts films, or just looking for a raucous good time: by all means, crack this one open and pound it down.

Archived article by Matt Chock