Review: The Young Master (1980)
Starring Jackie Chan, Hwang In-Sik, Yuen Biao, Shih Kien, Hoi Sang Lee, Fung Hak On, Fan Mei Sheng, Wei Pai
Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan and Fung Hak On
Directed By Jackie Chan
After the death of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan was tabbed as his successor, and producer Lo Wei envisioned another Bruce Lee, and for a time Jackie Chan tried to act like Bruce Lee in a succession of failures that started with New Fists of Fury. It didn’t work for audiences, and it didn’t work for Jackie Chan, who didn’t want to be another Bruce Lee clone. JC was more interested in comedy with his kung fu, and had a few modest hits before Lo Wei offered him on loan to Golden Harvest. JC went to Golden Harvest and had some success with Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow, but it was the massive success of The Drunken Master that would pave the way for this film.
The story begins at a lion dance, as the school of Master (Tien) takes on a rival school. Lung (Chan) and his brother Jing (Wei Pai) were street orphans taken in by the Master and trained in Kung fu, but during the Lion dance Lung finds that Jing has betrayed them and is being paid by the other school to secretly perform the dance for them. The Master eventually finds out and sends Lung off to find Jing and bring him back to the school. Unfortunately Jing has gone back to the other school, and their headmaster has a job for him and his two bodyguards, played by Hoi Sang Lee and Fung Hak-On: free their Master Kim who is being transported by a group of guards to a new prison. They are successful in freeing Master Kim, but the guards in town mistake Lung for being Jing, and Lung must avoid the police, and in particular the police chief (Kien) and his son (Biao) and somehow clear his name and that of his brother’s by facing Master Kim and defeating him…
This film is a template of what Jackie would be doing the rest of his career: imaginative fight scenes, funny situations, and crazy stunts, which in this film is getting his ass massively kicked by Hwang In-Sik. Yuen Biao is good but there wasn’t enough of him, and Hoi Sang Lee and Fung Hak On perform just as good as you’d hope, and then once Fung breaks the chains of Master Kim…Hwang In-Sik aka “Nimble” emerges with some next level Hapkido s**t! He proceeds to give the guards a one-time clinic in asswhoopery. He kicks their asses so badly they have to montage this scene! The beatings he delivers is so damn absolute you immediately doubt that Lung could win this fight..without a machine gun at least. The Jackie Chan/Yuen Biao fight is also really good, if the speed of choreography isn’t as fast as the rest of the film.
The fight between Lung and Chief Sang Kung is a lot of fun, especially once Lung gets ahold of the policeman’s pipe. Watching this fight between Jackie Chan and Shih Kien, and then comparing it to Shih Kien’s fight with Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon paints the differences between the two in broad strokes, and I wonder if that was intentional. Their mix up later at Chief Sang Kung’s house is a funny comedy of errors that would also become a staple of Jackie Chan’s films.
The final fight between Master Kim (Nimble) and Lung may as well been called The Passion of Jackie Chan, as JC proceeds to take an epic beating from the hapkido master, and is only able to beat him not because his kung-fu was better, but because he simply outlasted his opponent. Nimble proves that badassery does have limits, ‘cause you can only beat someone down for so long before you just…get tired. Hwang In-Sik would prove to be the first in a long line of super-kickers JC would have to face off with over the course of his career.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9
The movie that showed Jackie Chan was more than a passing fad, and may truly be the one to carry Bruce Lee’s torch. A fun kung fu comedy that would become the template for Jackie Chan films over the next twenty years.