A half dozen years after its Asian release, and over two decades after the original Drunken Master made Jackie Chan a star in Hong Kong, The Legend of Drunken Master may be the most kick-ass demonstration yet, for the majority of American moviegoers, of what the fuss is all about: To many aficionados (who know the video as Drunken Master II), this 1994 favorite, remastered and dubbed in ”classic” bad Chinese-accented English, showcases Chan in his impish glory, dazzling in his ability to make serious, complicated fighting look like devil-may-care fun.
So what if the star, meant to play real-life Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung as a young scamp, was close to 40 when this was made? Chan leaps nimbly from one breathtaking fight sequence to the next, playing a master who becomes even looser and more inventive the more lubricated he is with drink. (Anita Mui adds comic pizzazz as Fei-hung’s feisty, gambling stepmother.)
In the course of the effervescent tale, directed by Lau Ka Leung, Fei-hung whirls his way out of danger from axes, chains, and burning coals. (In one sly moment of battle, a compatriot shouts for him to take his shirt off, and Chan riffs on the full Bruce Lee stance.) That’s showbiz, that’s entertainment, and heeere’s Jackie, ageless and great, before refitting himself to Western specs. A-