Drunken Master II | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Drunken Master II


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In 1978 Jackie Chan launched his career as Asia's most durable action star with Drunken Master, a martial arts comedy in which he portrayed turn-of-the-century Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung as a comically endearing upstart who overcomes villainy with a unique fighting style. But until now Chan's never revived the Wong character. Reportedly he decided to make this sequel because his younger box-office rival, Jet Li, has appropriated the role in a series of movies--and because Li, a kung fu champion from China, has a high-kicking style quite different from Wong's fabled technique of feigning inebriation to lull his enemies. But as Chan amply demonstrates in this fictional account of Wong's coming-of-age, the baby-faced Li poses no challenge in the charisma department. The story is set against the backdrop of imperial China in turmoil, and as usual the British colonials are the bad guys. Here they're about to purloin a national treasure; even worse, they're in cahoots with local capitalist meanies exploiting factory workers. At first Wong is restrained from fighting the injustice by his decorous father, but after a round of humiliations he springs into action, artfully wiping out hordes of thugs with his "drunken fist" moves. The meticulously choreographed fight scenes are thrilling, Chan's comic timing is still sharp, and his repartee with Anita Mui is ribald and hilarious. Now if only one can overlook the conceit of the 40-year-old Chan casting Ti Lung, the only slightly older former matinee idol, as his dad and Mui, a decade younger, as his mom. (Lar Kar-leung, who also directed the original, was fired by Chan midway through this shoot but gets credit nonetheless.) Local martial arts champion Ho-sung Pak, who executes some fanciful stunts as a minor villain, will talk about his experience on the ten-month shoot of Drunken Master II in between screenings on Sunday. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, July 15, 7:30; Saturday, July 16, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, and 8:00; Sunday, July 17, 2:00 and 4:00; Monday, July 18, 6:00 and 8:00; Tuesday, July 19, 8:00; Wednesday, July 20, 6:00; and Thursday, July 21, 8:00; 443-3737.

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