Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Drunken Tai Chi

Directed by: Yuen Woo Ping
Screenplay: Yuen Woo Ping
Starring: Donnie Yen and Yuen Hsin Yee
Drunken Tai Chi marked the screen debut of Hong Kong legend Donnie Yen. Directed by action master Yuen Woo Ping, the film is a riotous comedy that mixes slapstick hi-jinks, Benny Hill style innuendos and intricate martial arts sequences into a very entertaining whole. Yen plays the fun loving, slightly cocky, Ching who along with his brother (Yuen Yat Chor) drive off the trouble making son of a local nobleman. Angry and humiliated at his son being defeated, and left insane, the nobleman sends out ruthless warrior, Killer Bird (Yuen Hsin Yee) to kill Ching, his brother and father. Killer Bird manages to slay the brother and father but Ching escapes, left homeless and roaming the streets. Taken in by a completely bonkers couple (Yuen Cheung Yan and Lydia Shum), they teach Ching the deadly art of Tai Chi for his inevitable showdown with Killer Bird and the nobleman.

Pretty standard stuff and stock plot for many an old school kung fu flick, the story of a young fighter training with an older master to defeat those who done him wrong, is nothing new. However, when you add in Donnie Yen’s charisma and superior fighting skills, some mad-cap comedy and a lightening quick pace, you’ve got one fun time flick. Regular viewers of kung fu films with this particular kind of over the top comedy will be familiar with all the madness this flick throws onto the screen. If you are a regular viewer of these flicks, then no doubt you will enjoy it. If not, then you will either hate it, discover something amazing or be baffled as to what you just saw. To say the comedy is broad is an understatement, but this film certainly had this viewer laughing out loud. It may be crude and outdated at times but the slapstick set-pieces are just as creative as the action ones. Yen and the cast throw themselves full force into the comedy and action, their enthusiasm threatening to go the through the stratosphere. Add in colourful backdrops, sets and enough kung fu combat to sate the most avid fan, Drunken Tai Chi a riot from beginning to end. Memorable scenes include a fight scene with fireworks, a rather large women trying to cross a bridge, Yen’s variation on arm wrestling, a fight with puppets and street performers, a man building a rocking horse using kung fu, a novel way to make a mattress, a villain in a big rolling wheel (!?) and umpteen scenes where no matter how simple the task at hand is, it always descends into kung fu.

Don’t go in expecting Drunken Master (another fighting flick by Yuen Woo Ping and a classic of the genre) as while that film featured much comedy, it was more streamlined and intense in its kung fu action. Drunken Tai Chi is more comparable to Kung Fu Hustle (minus all the CGI) in terms of tone and entertainment. While the flick is set in old times it does feature such modern references as skateboarding, bmxing and even break dancing (which Donnie Yen seems to be just as adept at as he is in kung fu) and those who don’t know what to expect from this type of film may be a little jarred. However, those of us (myself included) who have seen many of these films, will enjoy the good nature, the insane comedy and the plentiful fights. Much like its star, Drunken Tai Chi is fast, fluid and fun.

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