Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Drunken Tai Chi, Yuen Woo Ping, 1984

The only small problem might be that Drunken Tai Chi climaxes rather early - there's just no way to top the magnificent fireworks scene. After that, the film settles for a parade of smaller scale set pieces, all of them performed with a lot of energy, directed with speed and inventiveness and infused with the right kind of vulgarity. The narrative is threadbare and by the numbers but treated with enough respect and attention to detail (the repercussions of the great Lydia Shum fight scene, the domestic dynamics between Shum and Yuen and so on) to keep a base level of interest in the characters.

The 80s electro beats and allusions to basketball and breakdance add an extra level of craziness, but in a way the crosscultural spectacle feels completely natural, probably because the youthful Donnie Yen really is a force of nature in this film, transforming every impuls into movement, instantly and without discrimination. Still, my personal highlight in the cast is Yuen Shun Yee with another really out-there bad-guy-performance (he may even function as some sort of auteurist signature in his brother's films). Just like in Dreadnaught, he displays a fundamental, grotesque oddity which reaches far beyond the usual villain routines by tapping into a source of private craziness. Which in this case somehow is connected to him being a really great, loving dad. The scene in which he assembles a decidedly weird-looking hobby horse by pounding in the nails with his bare flesh is the kind of throwaway greatness only 80s Hong Kong cinema can provide. I will never get tired of stuff like this.

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