Jackie Chan’s 1994 action hit Legend Of The Drunken Master (or Drunken Master II in China) remains one of the coolest and most exciting martial arts movies ever caught on film, featuring Chan at his absolute peak. The fight sequences are creative, bombastic, and comical, and Chan’s stunts are magnificent. It could very well be the perfect kung fu flick.
It has some stiff competition, however, from Jet Li’s phenomenal Fist Of Legend, released the same year. Both films are high-energy, high-impact kung fu movies that remain at the very top of their class. So, which one is better? Let’s put these two films head to head and see who emerges victorious!
10 Drunken Master Had Alcohol
With a doubt, alcohol played a significant part in making Legend Of The Drunken Master such a hit. After all, the film’s focus on Chinese Drunken Boxing was unique and zany enough for audiences who were used to more straightforward action films with more well-known styles of kung fu.
By playing up the Drunken Boxing aspect of the film with the addition of alcohol, it sets the stage for some truly hilarious comedy, especially when Chan repeatedly gets sledged, giving him a kind of superpower in a fight. Not the best message for young kids, but it sure does cultivate a lot of laughs!
9 Fist Of Legend Had Conflict
Fist Of Legend ditched the comedy for a more dramatic and serious take which was more in line with traditional kung fu films. The story is full of strong thematic elements, from a murder plot to rivalries and betrayals, and even commentary Chinese/Japanese racism and stigma.
None of it plays too heavily on the film, which makes Fist Of Legend a breeze to watch. Its story moves quickly, and the action scenes are used to drive the narrative, rather than the other way round.
8 Drunken Master Had Comedy
Legend Of The Drunken Master is first and foremost, a comedy movie. It’s one of the few kung fu flicks that can be enjoyed by the whole family, thanks mainly to Jackie Chan’s lighthearted performance. Even the most intense of the fight sequences incorporate some degree of humor to offset the violence.
The comedy doesn’t stop there, though. Chan’s stepmother Ling is an absolute riot from start to finish – a bratty woman who openly defies her husband (sometimes under the radar) at a time when male dominance in a household was non-negotiable. The film’s sense of fun never lets up, even during more serious acts.
7 Fist Of Legend Had Brutality
In contrast, Fist Of Legend isn’t appropriate for younger viewers due to the intense violence. It’s not the most bloody or shocking martial arts flick out there, but those who are fans of bone-crushing kung fu movies won’t be disappointed here.
The film gets off to a roaring start in the very first act, with Chan performing a downward kick on the knee of an opponent, breaking his leg at the mid-section. From there, the stage is set for true kung fu brutality!
6 Drunken Master Had Crazy Stunts
If you’re watching a Jackie Chan movie, chances are you’re going to see stunts that cause the audience to wonder if the man is fit for a straight-jacket. While Drunken Master doesn’t have stunts quite on par with his Western breakout his Rumble In The Bronx, he’s still a certified nutter, performing on-screen feats that nobody in their right mind would attempt.
Chan’s most infamous stunt of the entire film involves falling back onto a bed of hot coals and scrambling backward to escape. It’s a jaw-dropping moment in the film that leaves Chan’s character suffering from severe burns, which up the ante of his fight.
5 Fist Of Legend Had Excellent Choreography
Fist Of Legend is renowned for its spectacular fight choreography, courtesy of Yuen Woo-ping. Wirework is limited, with an emphasis on realistic attacks that are just slightly enhanced for the sake of intensity. Jet Li is in top form, taking full advantage of Yuen’s amazing technical skills to show off everything from katana attacks, to Li’s use of his own belt as a weapon.
Ironically, Yuen directed the original Drunken Master film in 1978, giving both movies a spiritual connection.
4 Drunken Master Had Jackie Chan
In the mid-’90s, Jackie Chan had risen from occasional mention to household name status in the West, thanks to the amazing Rumble In The Bronx. Although that film wouldn’t premiere until a year later in 1995, it was more than enough for audiences to sit up and take notice.
All of a sudden, demand for Jackie Chan films began rising, and it wasn’t long before distributors began bringing more of Chan’s work to North American audiences. The actor’s self-deprecating charisma is charming from start to finish, no less so in Drunken Master.
3 Fist Of Legend Had Jet Li
Jet Li wasn’t the only Chinese action star to get a breakthrough role in America. His appearance in 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4 put him into the public consciousness without much effort, thanks to his brutal fight against Murtaugh and Riggs in the final act of the film.
Though playing a villain was rare for Jet Li, he somehow managed to convince everyone just how much of a badass he was, while making audiences want more. Li would go on to star in a string of Hollywood films, while distributors brought his earlier overseas works to America for the first time.
2 Drunken Master Had Two Storylines
Legend Of The Drunken Master actually incorporates two separate storylines that start off interconnected from the very first act, before diverging through the middle of the film. The first focuses on Wong Fei-hung’s substance abuse problem – in this case, alcohol.
He uses it to gain the upper hand in fights that he would normally find himself overwhelmed in. With a risk of alcoholism on the rise, Fei-hung goes through a funny, yet poignant character arc. The second storyline focuses on the theft of Chinese artifacts by corrupt officials, which Fei-hung must put a stop to. Normally this might confuse audiences, but in this film, it works.
1 Fist Of Legend Had A Bruce Lee Connection
Martial arts buffs know that Fist Of Legend is actually a remake of the classic 1972 Bruce Lee film Fist Of Fury. While disputes rage to this day about which is the superior film, it’s widely accepted that Fist Of Legend is an excellent remake that deserves much praise and respect.
Jet Li is an excellent successor to take the mantle of Bruce Lee’s character, and when combined with the astonishing action sequences and an excellent plot, it’s no wonder the film still holds a 100% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes, to this day.0
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