Drunken Master III (1994) Review

"Drunken Master III" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Drunken Master III" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Drunken Master Killer
Director: Lau Kar Leung
Writer: Stanley Siu Wing
Producer: Chris Lee Kin Sang
Cast: Willie Chi Tin Sang, Michelle Reis, Lau Kar Leung, Gordon Liu Chia Hui, Adam Cheng Siu Chow, Andy Lau Tak Wah, William Ho Ka Kui, Giorgio Pasotti, Lau Kar Yung, Bradley James Allan, Simon Yam Tat Wah
Running Time: 91 min.

By Reefer

The beautiful, but bratty, Michelle Li was about to become a princess. She received the jade ring from an evil king and she believed her life was just about to improve when a revolutionary played by Andy Lau kidnaps her. While escaping an attack by the king’s men, lead by the ever-bald Gordon Liu, Michelle is placed in the care of Wong Ki-ying and his soon-to-be legendary son Fei-hung.

It is here that DM3 falls into the familiar setting of the other films of the series. Miscommunication, out-right lies, and mistaken identity are again common place. Add to that a scene that was gratuitously lifted by Sam Raimi for this year’s Spiderman. The scene shows Andy Lau clinging to ceiling rafters while Gordon Liu’s evil general stands below. A drop of blood almost hits him but is skillfully fended off by Ki-ying. Later on, Michelle Li tries to pass herself off as a man on a cross-country trip with Fei-hung. Then later, there are lies about her being pregnant (another plot idea taken from DM2) for attempted comic effect. This film seems content on piling absurdity on top of absurdity until the entire production almost collapses under the stress of its own narrative.

Only after the one-hour mark does the audience get treated to any sign of Michelle Li’s human qualities. Before that, she is bitchy and bratty, often threatening to have people castrated or shot when she becomes queen. She is lightened up considerably when a group of children help her realize that being queen won’t bring her happiness by itself. A very well done scene in a film that was in need of one. I know, sounds like one of those corny warm and fuzzy moments, but I will continue to be a sucker for them.

Willie Chi as Fei-hung is no Jackie Chan or Jet Li, but few are. He has the boyishness of Chan’s character down, but lost is the physicality or even a hint of the stoicism or nobility of Jet Li’s adaptation. I think I should note that the presence of so many other characters also serves as a testament to Willie’s lack of star power. Chi offers fans of the character only a hollow grin which would be fine if you movie wasn’t so centered on he and Michelle’s bickering relationship.

As traveling companions, Chi and Li have more of a brother and sister appeal. Fei-hung seems more interested in his skateboard (?) and Li is too winey and self-obsessed for any believable sparks. Having said that, it’s obvious Fei-hung still has a hero streak in him, as witnessed by a totally odd fight between him and gay bus passenger Simon Yam during the ride. The fighting style here I can only describe as Homo Fu. At the same time, Yam exhibits either greater martial arts skills than I expected or excellent faking skills. The lengthy match is nonetheless ruined because it soon gets reduced to window dressing status in favor of Li’s hi-jinks involving wine-maker Lau Kar-leung and a bunch of pregnant women.

Then finally, all the good guys in the movie and all the bad guys in the movie clash in familiar Drunken Master style. This time it happens during some wacky Halloween celebration put on by those happy-go-lucky patrons of the (dum. . dee. . da . . dum!) White Lotus Sect. Andy Lau gamely appears again just in time to fight with Gordon Liu in a confession booth (?). Pretty soon everyone is strutting their martial stuff.

Despite all the references and links to the series, there really isn’t any alcoholic advantage given to the fighters. Ironically, maybe a buzz would be more beneficial to the audience instead of the performers. A good time waster, not much more.

Reefer’s Rating: 6/10

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