Drunken Master II should not have been as big of a hit as it was. The movie was cut to hell in America and other Western markets. Plus, Hong Kong and related Asian markets saw Kung-Fu movies as being corny and dated in that era. So, what have we been missing in American and the UK in all of these years. The answer is a better score and a plot that works a bit better. Other than that, I would much rather stick with the first Drunken Master.
Jackie Chan at the peak of his power is something to behold. For those that were too young to remember, while Chan was huge in Asia…he didn’t break in America until Rumble in the Bronx. Why did that one New Line release work in a way that nothing else did? Dimension Films was dropping Supercop and other major Chan releases at the same time. Sure, they came with Weinstein edits, but it was still a source of Chan entertainment for a pre-Internet America.
Drunken boxing makes for great movie fighting. However, I never understood how it would work in a practical setting. What this has to do with my prior thought is an example of how my brain works. All the while spending the 90s watching heavily cut American editions of Hong Kong cinema, I kept having my eye drawn to the nature of drunken boxing in Drunken Master I and II.
Being a kid that spent a lot of time in the library, I would find myself researching how it was a Jazz style of fighting that never showed how it correctly impacted as a means of defense. It’s just a random thought, but I invite all of the people screaming at me.
Historical fiction in a Golden Harvest movie feels rare to see in America. While the Axe Gang appears in Drunken Master II, this is very much the Chinese vs. the British. Many people watching Drunken Master II for the first time will be taken aback by the sheer volume of cinematic short hand onscreen. A lot of that can be attributed to the documented on-set fighting between Jackie Chan and the director. Drunken Master II was shot fast for the time and the plot feels secondary.
The big thing about this Drunken Master II release is seeing the original English subtitles that were cut for the initial Hong Kong print. This is such a big deal as the correct form of the film hasn’t been seen since the days of Laserdisc and VCD. What’s funny is comparing both cuts of Drunken Master II, it’s not that badly cut. It’s more alternate angles, different shots and musical change-ups.
Much like the aspect ratio changes and burned-in subtitles of prior home video releases, Drunken Master II was the victim of unnecessary changes. Is it the best Jackie Chan movie? I’d firmly say No. However, it is an important last gasp of the action superstar Chan before he started making Owen Wilson and Chris Tucker movies.
Drunken Master II is such an odd movie that everyone appreciates, but I’m not sure that anyone truly loves outside of the final fights. Dear Cinematic Jesus, this movie is nothing but a build to that last 20 minutes of pay off. If you’ve never seen the movie, pick it up for that alone.
Warner Archive slays it again with their treatment of Jackie Chan on Blu-ray. The A/V Quality is impeccable for a mid 90s foreign martial arts movie. However, I wish the DTS-HD 2.0 mono track was a little expansive. Even if it is true to the original source material. Ultimately, I’d recommend a purchase.