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醉馬騮 (2003)
Drunken Monkey

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 02/08/2008
Summary: familiar and comforting

Liu Chia-Liang's Drunken Monkey provides very good entertainment value. It is as much fun as a barrel of, uh, drunken monkeys. The film is a showcase for the talented Jacky Wu Jing who does a fine job holding his own with the legendary stars he's working with. It is great seeing Gordon Liu Chia-Hui doing his thing working again with his brothers, the director and the action director.

Working from a screenplay from veteran filmmaker Keith Lee Bak-Ling, director Liu takes us over and through a lot of material that seems familiar and comforting, Drunken Monkey is reminiscent of films like Mad Monkey Kung Fu [1979], Operation Scorpio [1992], and Drunken Master III [1994]. Production crew works hard to capture the look and feel of the legendary Shaw Bros. studio product. Key to this is the veteran Shaw's cinematographer Lee San-Yip, who shot films like Coward Bastard [1980], Corpse Mania [1981], and Wits of the Brats [1984].

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 09/18/2004
Summary: Pretty good

The action in this movie is good but the movie just feels like another Liu Chia Liang movie we have already seen or one blended into one from his other movies. It's good to see him and his "brother" Liu Chia hui together on the sceen though.

Not great but not bad either, but it felt too short


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/18/2003
Summary: Good old-style action

Ever since the success of 1998's The Storm Riders, there has been an increasing trend in Hong Kong martial arts films to use computers to enhance the combatants' abiltites (or lack thereof) in a process that has come to be known (somewhat derivately) as "computer fu". While many of these computer fu movies have enjoyed success at the box office, critics and fans from all over the world have decried the practice because it seems to have watered down the kung fu genre. Some of the harshest opposition to computer fu film-making has come from various "old-school" stars and stuntmen, who feel that they have been pushed out of the industry, since now any prettyboy can look like a fighting machine with the right equipment behind him. One of the biggest critics has been Lau Ka Leung, who is best known to western audiences for his work on seminal films such as Jackie Chan's Drunken Master II and 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Can he take this return to the screen for the Shaw Brothers studio and make it "the first real martial arts movie of the new millennium" (as the promo materials have it)?

Drunken Monkey is set in 1930's China, with Lau Ka Leung playing a courier named Wa Biao (translated as "Man Bill" in the subtitles), whose mastery of Monkey Fist (or "Monkeyish Fist" as the subs have it -- hey, at least the subtitles have that old-school flavor) helps his company gain a repuation for safe and quick deliveries of priceless artifacts. Unfortunately, some of the people in his company are not content with merely being couriers and have taken to smuggling opium. When Biao finds out about this, he tries alerting the authorities, but not before his former comrades beat him and leave him for dead. Eventually, Biao is found by a girl named Mandy (Shannon Yao Yao), who nurses him back to health. A year later, a pair of young men come looking for Biao in order to learn Monkey Fist. After their discovery of the old master, Biao's rivals set out to kill him once and for all.

This film, as mentioned before, was supposed to be a return to old-school action, and it does work on some levels. The action sequences, for the most part, are very good. It was indeed refreshing seeing people actually looking as if they were fightng instead of mimicking moves in front of a blue screen. While the action isn't terribly inventive (except for one part where the combatants used a briefcase full of booze in order to get the titular "drunken monkey" powers) and there are a few techincal faults here and there (i.e., shots that don't match and some too-obivous wirework in parts), it is solid and shows why Lau Ka Leung, even at his advanced age, is still a force to be reckoned with in HK martial arts movies.

Unfortunately, Drunken Monkey also falls prey to some of the faults that seemed to pop up in many old-school kung fu movies, namely a generic script and dependence on dopey comedy. I can forgive the faults in the script, since it really only serves to bridge the action sequences in a movie like this, but the attempts at comedy are really horrible and bog down the middle portion of the film. Things aren't as bad as Lau's Drunken Master III, but he is most definitely a better fight co-ordinator than a director. Overall, though, while Drunken Monkey doesn't quite capture the magic of the old-school classics, at least it's a step in the right direction. Frankly, I don't know how many more movies featuring pop stars tossing out fireballs or jumping over buildings I can take, and Drunken Monkey was a nice break from that.

Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 09/17/2003
Summary: The Lau Formula

"Drunken Monkey" presents the martial arts movie formula of betrayal, revenge and redemption. It takes the tried and true path to showcase Lau Kar Leung's talent as an actor, martial arts choreographer and director. The film also stars Gordon Liu and Jacky Wu.

"Drunken Monkey" is a solid outing with elements typical of the kung fu/action film genre, featuring training sequences and silly humor. The martial arts is quite entertaining, if not original. Fans of Leung's will find Drunken Monkey enjoyable and diverting.

Reviewed by: stuntpeople
Date: 09/06/2003
Summary: TV-Movie Quality, Thin Everything

What a travesty. Drunken Monkey is basically a made-for-TV movie done with film. The sets are from TV, the cinematographers and cameramen are obviously from TV, everything reeks of an Asian MA TV series. The resulting presentation is cheap.

Lau directed, and he choreographed everything. Trying to mask the obvious lack of talent from Lau Wing Kin (Lau Ka Wing's SON!! You'd think this guy would be a machine) and Shannon Yao Yao, he makes choreography mundane and stupid. Wu Jing's action is occasionally better. He gets the long takes and the shots where he fights facing the camera. LKL is still a speed demon, but we've seen all these moves in Mad Monkey Kung Fu. He'll probably still be this good when he dies. Unfortunately his fight scenes don't have the thickness we've come to expect from movies like Auntie and Lady Is the Boss. And Wu Jing is no Hsiao Hou. Never will be. Chi Kuan Chun as the villain is slow but proficient with a pole at the end (he has the longest fight shot in the movie against Wu Jing).

Who owned the movie? None other than Gordon Liu. His style is completely unhampered, and his acting was the best in the film. Seeing him fight Lau half way through the movie was a religious experience. Shots weren't long, LKL repeated that 4-move hand attack from MMKF, and the choreography wasn't all that complicated, but it was the skill we saw from them 25 years ago, and they're sharp as always.

I remember a long time ago Lau saying, "This is for the fans, for people tired of wires and fake stuff." I expected too much, like usual. The fighting is almost as bad as the typical TV series deal. Too many big ideas, too little subtlety. It's so thin you could drive a car through it. And let's not talk about how many bad cliches there are, and how bad the comedy is. Thank god for Gordon Liu, or this would've been a complete loss.

Otherwise I think this deserves to be categorized with the regular spam of Asian MA TV shows. DM3's choreography was better.

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 09/01/2003

what's there to say about a movie that settles for being an unabashedly retro throwback to the kind of martial arts genre film not seen in HK for a long time? It is rather fitting that the Shaw Bros return to movie-making after almost a decade would be precisely the kind of film that made the studios famous in the first place.

Drunken Monkey does not attempt to add anything new to the genre. There's no CGI FX, no Cantopop stars mimicking action heroes, no self-irony, just good old-fashioned martial arts movie-making, competent and satisfying to those that like this genre. I happen to be one of them, so I enjoyed this Lau Kar Leung production immensely.

The plot is the usual mix between revenge plot and master/student dynamics. The fighting style prominently on display is the Monkey Fist, combined with some drunken boxing. There's the occasional wirework, but it's mostly straight action.

Production values are comparable to Shaw Bros films from the 70s, with much of the story being shot on the familiar Shaws backlot, and some nicely selected outdoor nature locales thrown in as well.

Lau Kar Leung is still amazingly agile for his age, and I'd rank the film up there with his best work 20 years ago. Furthermore, it's a pleasure to also see other familiar faces such as Gordon Liu.