Starring Cao Jun, Wang Meiying, Chen Zhihui, Zhao Olusheng
Fight Choreography by
Directed by Jian Yong Guo
Last year HBO teamed up with China to create HBO Asia, an arm of HBO to create original content coming from China. This may well be in response to pretty much everything that Netflix is currently doing. First up, they decide to do a DTV film retelling of the original drunken master Beggar So.
I’m not really sure what I think if this film.
The story starts as we meet a vain and prideful So Chan, a scholar summoned to the Emperor to take over as a military advisor (not really sure why they’d want a scholar instead of someone like, say, a general) but after sneaking into the emperor’s private kitchen and doing battle with an intruder skilled in drunken boxing, eunuch Song Fok-Hoi frames So Chan for, I think, doing exactly what he DID do. So Chan is beaten, his family killed, and himself banished from the court. So Chan is taken in by the Beggar Sect, led by Lau Pak-Gwai, the very man he fought in the Emperor’s kitchen. Knowing that his life is still in danger from Song, So Chan starts to train in the art of Drunken Fist, and eventually becomes good enough to get his revenge for his family…
The story is simple, and the characters are drawn in broad strokes, but you don’t really get invested in any of them. It also hurts that this film is tremendously inferior to other films about drunken boxing like the Jackie Chan Drunken Master series, where Beggar So is played wonderfully by Simon Yuen, or True Legend, with Vincent Zhao. This film does have a TV budget, but it could have done a lot more with it than it did. I never got the feeling of the passage of time with this film, as it seemed as if his family is killed, and he trains for a few days and becomes a Drunken Fist master. That’s not the film’s intention, but that’s the feeling. Also, I couldn’t help laughing at the fact that close to the climax of the film, So Chan learns the final missing pieces of the style after GETTING STRUCK BY LIGHTNING. That’s right. He gains drunken mastery the same damn way Barry Allen becomes The Flash. Not one bit of it is earned. The acting is okay but there are no standouts here. Competent is the best thing I can say for it.
The fight scenes are okay, and may even be good, but the camera work zooms in and out, shoots too closely, and the edits are too fast to truly appreciate the movements, and what’s maddening about that is I can feel the choreography is good if the camera would just STOP MOVING. And of course any film called Drunken-anything really can’t mess up one important scene: the training one. Drunken Master set a high bar and is in the running for best training scene ever, and this film doesn’t come anywhere near that. It starts well enough, but is far too short with no real story element added like comedy or even urgency. At the end if the film I’m not sure Beggar So is any different than he was at the beginning of the film. He’s no longer even a beggar.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4
This is not a great or even good film, but there were some bones that HBO could set a better film on. Hopefully they have better films in the future. If not, this experiment won’t last long.