Follow TV Tropes


Film / Drunken Master

Go To

Jackie Chan's fourth starring role, and the one that put him on the map.

Wong Fei-hung is a young, irresponsible martial arts student who, in the space of one day, manages to anger his kung fu instructor by demonstrating that the instructor was an incompetent in front of the entire class, antagonize his aunt by making advances towards her daughter, and a local nobleman for beating the crap out of his (very snooty) son. As punishment, his father sends him to train under Beggar So (Yuen Siu-tien, also director Yuen Woo-Ping's father), who has a reputation for crippling his students. Naturally, Fei-Hung doesn't like this idea, and so he escapes, only to run into Beggar So, who gives him brutally rigorous training. At first, Fei-Hung hates his mentor, but he comes to respect him and becomes a much more proficient martial artist. At the end, Fei-Hung uses his new knowledge to defeat an assassin after his father.

Later, there was a sequel of sorts in the form of Drunken Master II, released in North America as Legend of Drunken Master. Wong Fei-Hung accidentally comes into possession of several valuable Chinese artifacts, which smugglers are trying to sell to Evil Brits. In 2005, Time Magazine declared this movie one of the All-Time 100 Movies, and Roger Ebert rates the climactic foundry fight as probably the best fight scene ever committed to film.

A third movie, titled Drunken Master III, was released in 1994, but without Jackie Chan's involvement. Instead, Willie Chi gets to play Wong Fei-Hung, also starring Andy Lau as a gunslinger and Simon Yam as a homosexual villain.

Drunken Master provides examples of

  • Accidental Pervert: While Fei-Hung was just trying to impress his friends by making advances on a young woman, things just get worse when she's revealed to be his cousin whom he'd never met before. Yikes.
  • Addiction-Powered: Of course, seeing how his mastery is drunken.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Fei-Hung disrespects people and does whatever he wants because he thinks he can either fight or trick his way out of anything. His Character Development requires him to learn some self-discipline and humility.
  • Ass Kicks You: Fei-Hung's interpretation of "Drunken Miss Ho" involves hip-checks to unbalance the opponent; he even tries an ass-drop attack on Yan Ti San, but Yan manages to dodge it.
  • Bald Head of Toughness: Rat the Iron-Headed Bullet is a literal example of this, having a bald head so strong he can break a piece of brick over it.
  • Booze-Based Buff: The trick to Drunken Boxing is that you actually have to be drunk for it to work effectively. See Worf Had the Flu below for more.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Fei-Hung is an expert fighter, no doubt about it. He's probably be an even better one if he spent as much time training as he did trying to get out of training.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Averted when Thunderleg meets Beggar So partway during the climatic battle. He wants no part of Beggar So, and tells So that his fight is of no concern to So.
  • But Now I Must Go: Beggar So leaves his home after Fei-Hung defeats Ceoi King-Tin, the staff-wielding master, and leaves a letter for him, saying that he has completed his training and that he should go back home.
  • Calling Your Attacks: The Eight Drunken Gods style. Each of the 8 moves has its own verse. Played for laughs later when Fei-Hong, failing to master Lady Ho's kata, makes up some bullshit moves and lines of his own.
  • Cherry Tapping: Beggar So is able to get the better of "The Gorilla" and his crew by whipping them mercilessly with a napkin. This establishes So as a true master of martial arts.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Beggar So. His first appearance has him throw a metal kettle of boiling water at the Dumb Muscle who was vain enough to fight bare chested, and he keeps going from there. Of course, he's a vagrant as well as a martial arts master, his lifestyle has no need of "fair play".
  • Dine and Dash: Early on, Fei Hung, the mischievous hooligan he was prior to training, tries leaving a restaurant after a heavy meal without paying. It didn't work - cue Fei Hung getting the snot beaten out of him by some pissed-off restaurant staff that Fei-Hung bossed around previously.
  • Drunken Boxing: If it wasn't obvious.
  • Drunken Master: The Trope Namer, of course.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While Fei-Hong's aunt humiliates him by revealing to his father that he made advances on his own cousin, Wong Kei-Ying is understandably pissed off. However, when he's ready to attack him, she immediately stops him, shocked that Kei-Ying that he would actually kill his own son.
  • Evil Virtues: Yan Ti San/Thunderleg is a killer for hire. Off the clock he is an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy par excellence, but once he is hired, he is a Consummate Professional; he cannot be bribed or rehired by the current target to kill his current client, and he will not relent until his target is dead.
  • Fatal Flaw: Fei-Hung is not nearly as clever as he thinks himself to be, and he is constantly slacking off from training. This goes beyond being merely Brilliant, but Lazy however, as he never bothers to learn the eighth form of Drunken Boxing ("Drunken Miss Ho" which he feels is too feminine to work in a fight) and he has to make up his own eighth form in the final fight to keep from getting killed. He gets over this hangup by the second film, where he uses the form to psych opponents out.
  • Hard Head: Fei-Hung fights a thug who specializes in using his head to fight. While it can break wood easily, his head isn't hard enough for a hammer, which gives him Cranial Eruptions.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Yan Ti San is most likely called Thunderleg in the English dub because he relies heavily on a slower fighting style that emphasizes power over speed, punctuated with lethal kicks. In the final fight with Fei-Hung, he reveals a hitherto-unseen style; The Shadowless Hand, a hand-based style that revolves around multiple rapid feints and finger flicks at an opponent's eyes, disorentating them, and hiding strikes behind a hand held close to the eyes to block their vision.
  • I Have No Son!: Subverted. In the UK dub, after hearing all of Fei-Hung's misdeeds, his father, Kei-Ying, is understandably disgusted with his son and verbally disowns him. However, he later decides to have Fei-Hung disciplined by Beggar So. By the end of the film, the two manage to reconcile.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Although he was furious with Fei-Hung, furious enough to disown him, nearly drown him in wine, and kick him out, his father still recognizes that he lost his temper and shouldn't have gone so far. He allows Cho to go after Fei-Hung and keep an eye on him.
  • My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: One reason Fei-Hung returns to Beggar-So and takes his training more seriously is his defeat at the hands of another martial artist, Yan Ti San. (Thunderleg, in the English dub)
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: When Freddy finds a bully picking on an old man and his son, he's quick to defend them and gives the bully a good thrashing… only to learn that he's the son of his town's most influential man, which gets him into even deeper trouble with his father.
  • Not Worth Killing: Even though he could kill him easily, Yan Ti San expresses that killing Fei-Hung would just hurt his reputation. Naturally, this prompts Fei-Hung to resume his training with Beggar So to become a better fighter.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Whenever Beggar-So does anything that requires fast movements or acrobatics, his hair covers his face and he becomes skinnier. His actor, Siu Tin Yuen, is doubled by his sons, Cheung-Yan Yuen and director Yuen Woo-Ping, for those shots.
  • Old Master: Beggar-So is exactly the kind of wandering master one wouldn't expect to be a master. He's also usually drunk.
  • Out-Gambitted: When Fei-Hung tried to walk out of the restaurant without paying, he attempted the old "that old guy over there's paying" trick. "That old guy over there" just happened to be the owner of the restaurant. Worse, Fei-hung claimed the guy was his father. Which prompted the head waiter to ask "You have more than one father?". The head waiter just happened to be the son of the owner and added "You must be a bastard, then". Obviously, the owner and his family had seen this trick before and don't mind giving so much food away for free if it means they get to teach the perpetrator a lesson.
    • Fei-Hung's luck at gambits extends to his tutelage under Beggar So; See below.
  • Pec Flex: The restaurant bouncer, Iron Gorilla, enjoys using this technique.
  • Shell Game: Beggar So stops to gamble against Rat the Iron Headed Bullet. Rat tries to run a rigged shell game, and is easily caught.
  • Signature Move: Yan Ti San's double-legged flying kick, which he uses to finish off his opponents and assassination targets alike.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, sharing the same actors for Fei-Hung, Yan Ti San, and Beggar-So in very similar roles. Fei-Hung even uses Snake Kung Fu in a few fights.
  • Surprise Incest: Fei-Hung tries to hit on a girl that visits his town, only to be attacked by her mother. He later learns that the girl is his cousin and that he fought his aunt.
  • Training from Hell: The usual methods apply here, like scooping water from a bucket with teacups only to fill another bucket while upside down. It's worth noting that the training wouldn't be so hellish if Fei-Hung wasn't trying to weasel his way out of it. In the teacups instance, he makes to fill the bucket directly with the other while Beggar So is taking a nap. However, So is one step ahead of him and when Fei-Hung fakes being tired and announces that he's completed his task, So tells him to now empty that bucket out with teacups roughly the size of shot glasses.
  • Trash Talk: Yan Ti San is a master of this.
  • The Trickster: Fei-Hung is very sneaky, one reason why he's in enough trouble to be sent away for special training.
  • Trickster Mentor: Beggar-So is equally sneaky, finding interesting ways to keep Fei-Hung from running away from his (often brutal) training.
  • Trope Codifier: For the Drunken Master and Hong Kong Martial Arts Movie, whose tropes film lovingly reproduces and creates the perfect product.
  • Worf Had the Flu: As stated above, Drunken Boxing requires one to be legitimately intoxicated. The one time in the film Beggar So is forced to fight sober (because Fei-Hung spent the money on fine food and wine for himself rather than a booze run and filled So's flask with water instead once he noticed he had drank most of it himself,) he is rapidly outclassed. To be fair though, the movie does take pains to show that it is not the lack of alcohol that is the problem, but Beggar So's shakes as he is coming down from his near constant buzz.
  • Worthy Opponent: When Fei-Hung demonstrates his drunken boxing, Yan Ti San actually expresses approval and compliments his new technique.

Drunken Master II provides examples of:

  • Alcohol Is Gasoline:
    • Inverted. The climax takes place at a metalworking factory, which has small containers of kerosene used to heat up the fires enough to melt steel. Against the Final Boss, the hero Wong Fei-hung is seemingly outmatched... until he goes ahead and drinks the kerosene to activates his Drunken Master abilities.
    • One (cut out) outtake of the epilogue had Wong suffering badly for that choice, because drinking alcohol with that high a proof turned out to give him brain damage.
  • Alike and Antithetical Adversaries: The villains of the second movie are Englishmen and their Chinese collaborators. You can identify them because they wear western suits, whereas the rest of the cast wear traditional Chinese garb.
  • Always Someone Better: For how unstoppable Fei-Hong is when drunk, his father Kei-ying is the only one who can counter every one of his attacks and subdue him.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Fei-Hong fights with a massive bamboo that starts splintering from the impact into a mess of serrated edges that can cause genuine harm, not just to opponents but the person holding it. Long story short, you don't want to try this at home.
  • Bad Boss: Anyone holding a position at the foundry, since they're putting all the workers through the grinder and just using them to cover a smuggling syndicate.
  • The Berserker: Fei Hong on kerosine becomes an absolute beast that can plough right through your best hits and wreck you like a freight train. He also retains all of his skill and agility but none of his compassion, so good luck surviving his onslaught.
  • Bowdlerize: International releases of the movie cut out a scene at the end of the movie where Fei-Hung pretends to be mentally retarded and passing it off as a result of alcohol poisoning. Unfortunately, some cuts go so far as end the movie right after the final fight.
  • Booze-Based Buff: The main character's a drunken boxer, so this is a given. Taken up to eleven during the final battle when Fei-Hong decides to booze up with industrial-grade alcohol from a foundry.
  • Booze Flamethrower: What happens when Fei-Hong spits a mouthful of industrial alcohol at his foe, who's coming at Fei-Hong with a superheated metal rod. When he tries this again, he accidentally chokes on alcohol, but discovers its intoxicating properties.
  • The Cameo: Bill Tung, Jackie's longtime costar from the Police Story movies, appears at the end as a police chief.
  • Combat Hand Fan: In the second movie, Fei-Hung uses one to great effect against a giant mook. The saying written on it also inspired him to use a Booze-Based Buff to defeat the Big Bad and The Dragon.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Fei-Hong is not above kicking dirt in his opponents' faces, or whipping them with serrated splintered bamboo. The bad guys, being bad guys, naturally take it further by dropping coal tippers and lit alcohol on him in the finale.
  • Continuity Nod: The return of the Eight Drunken Gods style, down to the whole thing with treating Lady Ho as the Joke Character.
  • Convection Shmonvection: All over the place in the final battle in the foundry. And those fires are all real!
  • Epic Flail: One of the thugs in the foundry fight lights a chain on fire, and uses it on Fei-Hong.
  • Everyone Has Standards: The Dragon actually looks concerned when he notices that Fei-Hong has started chugging industrial alcohol in the finale.
  • Evil Brit: The villains of the sequel, who steal Chinese artifacts to the British Museum of Art. Interestingly, the English dub uses American voice actors for good Chinese characters (save Jackie Chan himself) while using a British voice actors for a villainous Chinese character.
  • Eye Scream: Part of the final fight involves The Dragon shoving his square jaw into Fei-Hong's eyes, after which Fei-Hong shoves his nose into the bugger's eyes. There's no lasting damage, but unless you've trained in blindfolded boxing or something, you've got a problem.
    • Fei-Hong's increasing comfort with the Drunken Miss Ho form since the first film also results in an expanded arsenal of moves. His use of the form now includes a bunch of these, again used to throw opponents off of their pace, and occasionally even fakes them out with one before striking them elsewhere.
  • Fake Pregnancy: Seemingly Ling does this to distract the father from beating Fei-Hung and she reacts nervously whenever her husband refers to her supposed pregnancy. It turns out she really was pregnant and simply knew when to time the news to her advantage.
  • Feel No Pain: After consuming kerosine, Fei Hong responds to getting hit by instantly retaliating with berserker fury.
  • The Glasses Come Off: What John does while demonstrating himself to be Fei-Hung's Final Boss - balancing on one leg to show off his kicking skills.
  • Karma Houdini: We never see what happens to the English ambassador that masterminded the smuggling racket, although the some international versions include a line saying he's been arrested.
  • Kung-Shui: The axe gang ambush. It's Jackie Chan so you fully expect him to use the tables and benches, but Law Kar-Leung as Master Fu takes this to destructive levels, from breaking off wooden railings for his own use to smashing an entire staircase!
  • The Legend of X: The North American title, which is The Legend of the Drunken Master.
  • Large Ham: Ling, Fei-Hong's stepmother, especially when she is trying to fool her husband.
  • Lighthearted Rematch: After Fei-Hong and Master Fu clear up their misunderstanding and get their bundles back, they drop whatever weapons they were using and go at it like gentlemen.
  • Mama Bear: Ling is relentless in protecting her stepson from his father.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Fu Wen Chi is revealed to be the equivalent an undercover federal agent who was trying to keep the British from looting China's history. He sits with Fei Hung in a tea house and explains that, recruiting him to do the same, whereupon they are attacked by a hired gang of axe-wielding thugs. He's killed in the ensuing fight.
  • Morph Weapon: A rare one made with pure practical effects. The bamboo staff thing that Fei Hong uses against the Axe Gang can be used as a regular staff to whack people, split its ends to scratch and slash, and even expand to trap opponents' limbs in between the strands. Fei Hong and the staff are oiled up, which is why he doesn't get scratched up by the edges of the bamboo.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After Fei-Hung and Chang Tsang break into the embassy, the British put boxing gloves on them and beat them senseless in a mockery of a fair fight.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: John. In the beginning he comes off as the brains of the henchmen, especially with his huge nerd glasses. Come the final fight though, he winds up being Fei-Hung's last opponent and likely the most dangerous of them when he reveals his powerful kicking techniques.
  • Post-Victory Collapse: What happens to Fei-Hong after the climactic battle. He beats his opponent, but collapses after consuming industrial alcohol to do so.
  • The Quisling: There are a lot of Chinese thugs working for the English ambassador in his artifact-smuggling racket.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Master Fu, the imperial officer and master martial artist who was just out to get back an imperial seal (and the closest thing to a Big Good in this movie), is shot dead by the bad guys before the final battle.
  • Satchel Switcheroo: The drama starts when Fei-Hong tries to recover a priceless ginseng at the same time that Master Fu is trying to recover an imperial seal - both of which are packaged in the exact same fashion.
  • Shameful Strip: The villains find Fei-Hong after he's OD'ed on alcohol and vulnerable, then beat him into the floor before stripping him naked and literally stringing him up to be found the next day.
  • Shirtless Scene: When ambushed by an axe gang from all sides, Master Fu makes Fei-Hong take his shirt off, then covers him in oil to make it harder to grab him.
  • So Last Season: Invoked and subverted - Fei-Hong breaks out the Eight Drunken Gods style relatively early in his first real fight with the villains, but The Dragon wasn't present for that one, and it doesn't matter anyway because Fei-Hong in the final fight just chains one move after another without Calling Your Attacks, to create one long No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting in this time due to the spread of martial arts, though this girl from the marketplace who sells live animals like snakes has yet to sit down for formal lessons. She's shown doing badly at the end of the axe gang ambush, but when they start Storming the Castle in the finale, everyone lends a hand while the girl... throws live snakes at the guards.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: The only time they do stay faithful to the traditional Wong Fei-Hong of history. Fei-Hong actually drags one of the Bad Boss foremen out of the way before his foundry worker buddy can crush his head under a coal tipper.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Ling and Marlon, they quarrel over the attention of their female friend and argue about their fighting styles, but it's clear they are protective of each other.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: It's not till the final fight that we get one, which is a little odd considering how many times Fei-Hong drinks. Likely because it's treated as The Gloves Come Off.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Fei-Hung genuinely respects his father, despite all the trouble he's caused; After a particularly out-of-control bender where he mistakes his father for an opponent, Fei-Hung agrees to give up drunken boxing permanently. Mind you, this is somewhere roughly in the end of the second act and we've still got at least one more big fight to go, so it isn't that permanent.
  • Would Hit a Girl: That foundry manager who hits Ling in the face immediately earns the first big beatdown in the movie, and a face full of lit alcohol in the finale.

Drunken Master III provides examples of

  • Dolled-Up Installment: Due to its excessive comedic nature, different casting and sudden change in genre, some reviewers considers the third movie to be a last-minute shoe-in to the Drunken Master franchise.
  • Groin Attack: How Simon Yam's gay assassin gets defeated in his final scene. He didn't die, but he's not shown again after landing sharply on his nuts.
  • The Gunslinger: Yeung Kwan is a marksman with his Mauser, which he use to take down several gangsters.
  • Lighter and Softer
  • The Mole: Yeung Kwan pretends to be a minion of the White Lotus Society, but is actually one of the good guys on the same side as Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
  • Oddball in the Series: While the first two movies had its own slapstick moments, the third turns it up to eleven. Also, the inclusion of a gunslinger character than deals with problems by shooting them, seems really out of place too in a martial arts-themed series so far.

Alternative Title(s): Legend Of The Drunken Master, Drunken Master II, The Legend Of The Drunken Master