Legend of the Drunken Tiger
Year of release: 1991
Genre: martial arts
Director: Tai Bou-San
Action directors: Robert Tai, Alexander Lo Rei, Yip Yung
Producers: Lok Chue-Fai, Yim Hei-Tung
Writers: Tai Bou-San, Zhang Zi-En, Robert Tai
Cinematography: Go Yat-Tuen
Editing: Cheung Lai
Music: Ma Ting
Stars: Kara Hui, Alexander Lo Rei, Chan Jing, Cheung Kwok-Keung, Ku Feng, Ho Pak-Kwong, Man Siu, Wong Hap, Lee Lung-Yam
Not rated; contains IIB-level violence
Movie Review Index
The 1991 Taiwanese release Legend of the Drunken Tiger doesn't deviate too much, if at all, from your usual template of kung fu movies from this period. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as many people, including this particular reviewer, regard this point in time as the zenith of Chinese film-making. If you're looking for something that provides thought-provoking intellectual fodder, then you had better venture elsewhere in your cinematic journey. But if you're in the mood for some good old-fashioned martial arts fisticuffs and don't mind a bit of wire-fu, you could do a whole lot worse than this.
Taking place in 1898 during the beginnings of the revolution that would overthrow the Qing dynasty, Legend of the Drunken Tiger revolves around Cheong San, a man who is extremely talented in kung fu despite being perpetually under and alcoholic haze. Along with his fiancee, Leela (Kara Hui), Cheong begins to lead the charge against the Qings and their newly-enlisted foreign army.
Legend of the Drunken Tiger certainly has its' fair share of problems. It was obviously made on a shoestring budget and looks very cheap, especially when compared to more recent releases that covered similar subjects, such as Jackie Chan's 1911. In particular, some of the costuming and makeup is bush league -- most of the enlisted men in the "foreign" armies are Chinese actors under poor-looking disguises. Another stumbling block is the dependence on dopey comedy, especially during the first two acts. It is tough at points to sit through the exposition.
However, by the third act, matters take a more serious tone, which turns out to be for this movie's benefit. Though nothing gets as hardcore as something like Black Sun or City of Life and Death, the violence and brutality is definitely turned up a couple of notches, which makes the final confrontations have much more weight to them -- even with a good number of the participants being under the aforementioned silly make up.