Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Drunken Yen

The Kung Fu keeps on rolling! I just watched the film Drunken Taichi for the first time. What is it? It's a Hong Kong Kung Fu movie from the 80's which was actually Donnie Yen's first film! Who's Donnie Yen? Are seriously asking this question? Just in case you don't know, Donnie Yen is a Chinese action star who was never really as famous as Jet Li or Jackie Chan, but certainly on par with them in terms of screen presence. He's been in a pile of Chinese and Hong Kong action films and even a few Hollywood pictures.

Donnie Yen as seen in 2009's Yip Man
 Those not well versed in East Asian cinema might know him from such films as, Highlander: Endgame (the motion picture finale of the Highlander TV series), Blade II (sequel to Blade 1, not as memorable or awesome as the first), Shangai Nights (a lack luster sequel to a half good American Jackie Chan film) and some other stuff I probably haven't seen or was not memorable enough for me to recall it at this time. Yes, like most HK actors his Hollywood portfolio is not the best, however his HK stuff is pretty awesome, boasting such films as, Once Upon a Time in China II (in where he fought Jet Li), Hero (in where he fought Jet Li again), In The Line of Duty 4 (fight scene heaven!), and SPL (or Killzone in the North America, in which he fought against Wu Jing and an older Sammo Hung alongside Simon Yam!!!). I'm probably leaving out some REALLY good movies but that's just what's coming to me at the moment. Anyway about Drunken Taichi...

 Drunken Taichi is an old-style kung fu comedy movie from 1984. I say old-style, meaning that there's no wire-fu or any of that more flamboyant, overclocked, fight scene stuff that became popular in the early 90's. It's directed by Yuen Wo Ping, who is, without a doubt, the GOD of fight choreography and even in this early film, his unrivaled fight scene creativity is present. The plot revolves around Donnie Yen's character, the son of a rich merchant who lives a cushy life-style but still does Kung Fu and gets into trouble. One day he messes with the son of another affluent businessman and ends up inadvertently causing the other young man to suffer some kind of emotional or brain damage. The father of the young man hires a killer to wipe out Yen's Character's family. The killer strikes when Yen is out of the house, killing his father and older brother and thus Yen is orphaned. Eventually the killer comes for Yen but he ends up living with a Kung Fu master couple comprised of an old drunk Taichi master and an over-weight quilt maker who uses her own brand of kung fu. They train him and he kills the killer.

Young Donnie Yen with his old master played by Yuen Cheun Yan
The story is fairly derivative, forgettable and extremely silly and this is nowhere near as awesome as Yuen's or Yen's later work. Still, the fight scenes are really quite creative and include a firework battle in which Yen and his brother fire and dodge all manner of ridiculously engineered fireworks. The choreography was also made to show off Donnie Yen's physical abilities with complicated jump kicks and all manner of flamboyant stunts. Though certainly not a hall-of-famer, any fan of old-school kung fu films should enjoy this, and any fan of Donnie Yen will likely get a kick out of seeing his onscreen debut. Worth a look, just be warned, its REALLY silly and I think some of the jokes are lost in translation.       

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