movie poster

Drunken Master III


Director: Lau Ka Leung

Stars: Andy Lau, Lau Ka Leung, Michelle Reis, Simon Yam

Another take on the popular folk hero Wong Fei-Hung (played here by Andy Lau). This time, he's protecting a lovely princess-to-be (Reis) from the dealy White Lotus Sect while learning how to kick ass from a kindly old brewer (Lau Ka Leung). Simon Yam has a small role as a would-be attacker.

Apparently, there was a major spat on the set of Drunken Master II between Jackie Chan and (then) director Lau Ka Leung. Chan wanted to use more wire fu, but Kau wanted to keep the fights more realistic. Eventually, Lau left the set and Chan finished the rest of DMII himself. So it could be said that Lau wanted to do DMIII as a kind of slam to Chan, as in "look what I can do." To his credit, Lau is a great martial artist and has appeared in a number of the classics of the kung fu genre. But this movie just stinks, at least compared to the previous Drunken Master movies. Andy Lau captures neither the schoolboy giddiness of Jackie Chan or the dead-on seriousness of Jet Li (as popularized in the Once Upon a Time in China series) and as such makes a weak Wong Fei-Hung. While there are some good fight sequences (particularly towards the end), it's a case of "too little, too late." By that time, the viewer is so confused (if they don't know some HK history) or bored (through useless meandering, including the dreaded mandatory romantic subplot) that they won't care if wires are used or not. And did I mention that Wong doesn't use the Drunken Fist style? That's right, this is a Drunken Master movie with no drunken fighting.

Drunken Master III is a decent kung fu movie, but when held up to part 2 (which to me is the pinnacle of martial arts movies) or Lau Ka Leung's work on great movies such as Pedicab Driver, it's pretty horrible. It's worth seeing if you're a completeist, but the average viewer is mostly likely to be put off halfway through. I think someone on a newsgroup put it best: "it looks really great as part of a best of tape."


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