The joys of dubbing are probably best reserved for Sunday afternoons on the couch with a kung fu triple feature, so it’s a shame about the English-synching for the mass-market rerelease of Jackie Chan’s 1994 fireworks show The Legend of Drunken Master (perhaps timed to piggyback on the advance hype for December’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). But the most pertinent sounds in Chan’s 140-plus movies usually fall within the range of bish-thwack-ow, and this sequel to 1978’s Drunken Master is no exception; Chan has always seemed like a silent-screen virtuoso self-catapulted into modern times. Blithely brazen as ever, he plays affable Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-Hong, who apparently hasn’t aged a day since the first film—he’s still failing spectacularly at avoiding fights, still drinking to win, still slacking itat home with his despotic father and roguish stepmom (Andy Lau and Heroic Trio member Anita Mui, respectively seven and nine years younger than Chan!).
The uncertain plot somehow concerns ginseng and stolen objets d’art; the main thrust is acrobatic slapstick with a decided antipatriarchal twist (theorists take note: Jackie Chan subverting the male gaze!). The star’s renowned exhibitionist masochism, usually reserved for the closing blooper reel (this one sports spouting noses and singed hands), bleeds heavily into the action. Chan freaks his way through a soused pair of Incredible Hulk-style wig-outs worthy of Bullet in the Head; a scene in which Wong guzzles kerosene, blows fire, guzzles more kerosene, pukes, and then kicks 20 guys’ asses is typical (the movie deserves its own drinking game). Game director Lau Ka Leung packs all the flying bodies he can into his teeming frame, and the climactic, heedlessly extended pas de deux between our hero and the lithe, angular, almost contortionist baddie Ken Lo seems hallucinatory in its physical pyrotechnics. Meanwhile, audience surrogate Anita “Tung, Wonder Woman” Mui takes her boy’s boozing and contusing in stride; when Fei-Hong packs away a jug of rice wine in one go during a marketplace smackdown, she reassures worried onlookers, “Don’t worry, it gives him power.”
The simpering, sanctimonious Theodorous (Hill Harper) exerts his own mysterious powers over other men’s women in Kwyn Bader’s Loving Jezebel, an oafish wish-fulfillment wankfest. The only comeuppance provided for the exhausting, entitlement-warped protagonist is that his Don-wan magnetism attracts a racially diverse but psychologically homogenous parade of loony shrews.