The legend of the “drunken master” is alive and well in this run by the numbers kung fu film.
When Admiral Su begins a crackdown on opium in his area, he begins taking down various businesses involved with the sale and use of the drug. When Prince Suo Tu is invited to the Su’s home and is given a performance Shen Ruyu, he becomes infatuated with her. However, when Suo’s right hand man attempts to coerce Ruyu despite her objections, Su Can comes to the rescue and defeats the henchman much to the chagrin of his father.
When Suo Tu learns that Su Can is competing in a martial arts tournament, he hatches a plan to frame up the young stalwart. Su Can, an opium user himself, is busted when withdrawals force his limbs to aching. Then, he accuses Admiral Su of nepotism and fraud. Suo’s plan is to corner the market of opium and work with foreign powers. When Su Can’s family is massacred, he is taken in by his teacher, a drunken hermit who gives Su the power of alcohol to overcome his habit. Together with Ruyu and his master, Su Can’s destiny is told as he’s ready to avenge his family’s murder.
Su Er Qi, aka So Hua Chi, aka Su Can is a legendary tale of a warrior who uses the eclectic style of drunken boxing to take on his foes. The role was iconized by the late Simon Yuen Siu-Tin in 1978’s Drunken Master and had played the role a few more times (Dance of the Drunk Mantis and The Story of Drunken Master, both released a year later) before his death in 1979. In 2014, Yuen’s son Woo-Ping, who directed Drunken Master and Dance of the Drunk Mantis would bring the legend back in True Legend, with Vincent Zhao in the lead role.
In the wake of the straight to streaming Chinese kung fu films as of late, variations of martial arts legends have become somewhat of a resurging trend. This film, clocked in at 73 minutes, is pretty standard and is a run by the numbers attempt to bring the legend of the “drunken master” back. However, it seems like lead star Cheng Qimeng, in the role of Su Can, seems to be more akin to Jackie Chan’s mischievous Wong Fei-Hung and even Stephen Chow’s King of Beggars as he seems to be more arrogant, even when he faces off against some high-profile talent.
Chen Guoliang was one of the highlights of the film as he oozed evil in the role of lead villain Suo Tu, who plots to overthrow the government for his own nefarious purposes through the use of opium. He even goes as far as taunts Su Can when he learns the woman he loves, Shen Ruyu, is now Suo Tu’s concubine. Shen Ruyu is well played by Alisa Zhou while Suo has a henchwoman in a sorceress, Wu Pianpian, played by Shi Xuanru. As for Liu Zang, Xu Zhanwei does a decent job at an attempt to emulate the likes of Yuen and others who have played the elderly master role in the past, especially a drunken boxing expert.
The fight scenes are not too bad and perhaps are the best thing aside from Chen Guoliang’s performance, given that there are times when things don’t make sense or add up. Some nice kung fu mixed in with a bit of wirework, they are pretty good considering what we have in terms of fight choreography these days. There are little bits of close-ups and quick cuts, but not much as for the most part, we do get to see what’s going on.
Drunken Master Su Qier is not bad, but it’s not spectacular either. Cheng Qimeng plays a more childish performance and yet, Chen Guoliang and the fight scenes nearly save the film from total destruction. If you like kung fu films, you can do worse than this one. Worth checking out at least once.
WFG RATING: C-
815 Pictures presents a Zhongyunboyhi Film production. Director: Li Dachuan.
Cast: Cheng Qimeng, Alisa Zhuo, Chen Guoliang, Xu Zhanwei, Shi Xuanru, Qian Siyi, Tan Pengwen.