The Young Master (1980)

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Leaving Lo Wei’s Film Company, Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan makes his Golden Harvest debut with this instant classic kung fu comedy.

Two adopted brothers, Dragon and Tiger, enter a lion dance competition for their kung fu school. When they lose the competition, their father is none too happy with the results. However, it is revealed that Tiger was paid by the rival school to throw the competition. In anger, their father kicks Tiger out of the school and decides to take out all of his aggression on the fellow students. Having enough, Dragon decides that he must bring Tiger back to settle matters once and for all.

However, Tiger is given another job by the rival school. He is asked to join two assistants to free their captured master, Master Kim. When they successfully free Kim, the officials recognize only a fighter with a white fan. Dragon, who holds a white fan, is mistaken for his brother and chaos ensues. Soon, he feels the wrath of the local police captain, his son Fourth Brother, and his daughter. Dragon must take it upon himself to clear his name and find the real culprits.

Jackie Chan truly shines in this film, with his combination of comic flair and exhilarating kung fu fight sequences. Chan gets to show off his impeccable skills with a fan as a weapon against Fan Mei-Sheng, his skills with the lion dance, a nicely shot swordfight defensive attack against nosy policemen and his fight against real-life schoolmate Yuen Biao, who shines with the bench as Fourth Brother.

Chan even impersonates a style that the police captain’s daughter uses involving the use of a skirt to take on the likes of Lee Hai-Sheng and Fung Hark-On. What’s great is the combination of these fights with the comic relief that make Chan a true comic kung fu genius. Even Shek Kin, who is best known as the villain of Enter the Dragon, gets his hand in the comic portion of the film.

One martial artist impressed with the film is Hapkido grandmaster Hwang In-Shik, who plays the film’s main antagonist, Master Kim. A veteran actor of kung fu cinema, Hwang never truly showcased his skills of Hapkido until this film. The film’s climatic sequence, pitting Chan and Hwang, lasts a whopping fifteen minutes. This showcases two things in particular: Hwang’s breakdown of Hapkido and Chan’s ability to take some punishment. Hwang is definitely worth seeing here as he uses a combination of the kicking skills of taekwondo, the joint locks of aikido, and the throws of judo that make up the art of Hapkido. Those who really want to see the Korean style will want to see this particular battle.

Hwang and Chan would have their rematch two years later in an originally proposed sequel, Young Master in Love, which would later be known as Dragon Lord. Hwang would once again unleash his trademark Hapkido skills and once again, Chan would take the punishment alongside Mars, a veteran of Chan’s famous stunt team.

The Young Master is truly a nice blend of kung fu fight scenes and comic relief, with Jackie Chan at the top of his game. However, the real highlight is Chan taking nearly 15 minutes of punishment from Hapkido grandmaster Hwang In-Shik. A true classic!

WFG RATING: A+

A Golden Harvest (HK) Ltd. Production. Director: Jackie Chan. Producer: Raymond Chow. Writers: Edward Tang, Lau Tin-Chi, and Tung Lo. Cinematography: Chen Ching-Chu. Editing: Peter Cheung.

Cast: Jackie Chan, Wei Pai, Yuen Biao, Shek Kin, Lily Li, Hwang In-Shik, Lee Hoi-San, Fung Hark-On, Fung Fung, Fan Mei-Sheng, Tien Feng, Bruce Tong, Ma Chao.

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