Shaolin Drunken Monk (1981)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2010-11-25
Summary: Not drunk enough
The problems with plot and structure that burden "Shaolin Drunken Monk" occur because of the script. The audience can't figure out if the main character is Lau Chung, the intrepid warrior committed to avenging his father's death at the hands of Wong Kin Chung or if we should be following Wong's daughter who Lau Chung kidnaps. This confusion isn't intentional--this isn't "Vertigo" or "Mulholland Drive"--but is simply due to poor writing. The last scene, which seems tacked on and unnecessary, is one good indication of this. The daughter feels a terrible conflict between her filial feeling for her father and her new found passion for her lover--but it gets resolved in favor of the Lau Chung, the lover. And then it isn't resolved although nothing has happened onscreen to tell us why. It seems the writer was as confused as anyone regarding whose story this is.

The main reason to watch "Shaolin Drunken Monk" is the terrific action scenes. Gordon Liu has some truly amazing one on one fights, some with the formidable Eagle Han others with uncredited extras. These battles with the extras were particularly good. We reran several of them in slow motion and were still amazed that those blows didn't actually land.

Cheung Mei-Gei was a very talented and attractive actress in 1982--if she is Korean star Jang Mi-Hee whe has had quite a career. It would have been nice to see her in more Hong Kong movies although there was no shortage of female talent and beauty in the Crown Colony in the 1980s. Eagle Han is a very bad bad guy and that is good thing. He sells his character very well even though Wong Kin Chung vacillates wildly in his attitude toward his daughter--should he be angry or ashamed; does he love her or hate her; should she be rescued or killed--but with little motivation for the emotional swings. They simply happen and Han grimaces and sneers his way through the role always seeming to enjoy himself.

Context matters with drunken boxing: the various incarnations of Beggar So are the best examples and one of his "disciples", Jackie Chan, set the bar pretty high himself. The actor who played the monk and drunken fist teacher to Lau Chung is convincing but Liu himself seems less so, possibly because I have always seen drunken boxing to be a technique unique to itself, almost a lifestyle choice opposed to a fighting style. He is better--more effective onscreen, that is--when using "sober" styles.

With a discontinuous story that wanders around, some great fights and a "what the hell was that" ending, "Shaolin Drunken Monk" is a watchable mess.
Reviewer Score: 6