The Idiot Swordsman Review
In the opening montage we learn of a legendary figure known as the Drunken Knight, a master swordsman whose true identity is unknown since he went into hiding years prior. Cut to an innocuous looking town where a simple looking fellow carrying a sword enters a teahouse (you know that means trouble is coming!), orders some wine and is promptly laughed at by his fellow patrons as he becomes intoxicated rather too quickly. Some thugs enter and he stands up for all that is good in the world and somehow trips and fumbles his way into a win, leading others to proclaim him as the Drunken Knight, a moniker he doesn't deny due to the perks that come with it. His good fortune in battle continues and on his journey he soon finds a disciple to follow him, the favour of a beautiful woman and the role as leader in an alliance working to fight against the evil Peony gang.
With all these new found duties weighing on his conscience the Drunken Knight's interest slowly begins to wane, that is until the lovely Miss Yin is kidnapped and he feels bound by honour to save her. Little does he know that the real Drunken Knight has been working alongside him all this time, a fact that is revealed to him long after the audience has caught on. This basic plot outline is weaved around a series of mistaken identity encounters that wear out their welcome long before the film stutters out of first gear in the opening hour, with none of the situations allowing for any comedy that works and worse still, failing to provide any worthy action set pieces. A film about drunken martial arts should at the very least offer some amusement, it’s a form that has been exploited so well over the years from Jackie Chan's early role in The Drunken Master right up to the hit manga and anime series Naruto where one of the characters puts the Drunken Fist to use with hilarious consequences. Yet here the concept is wasted as they mistake a bumbling fool tripping over his own feet and accidentally striking his enemies to be a) an example of a drunken style and b) funny. It's not. And the excuse that he's not the real Drunken Knight just doesn't cut it.
A more apt title for the lead role would have been 'The Boring Drunk', with the only real amusement to be found here coming from the English dub (and probably the original script) that is forced upon viewers with this release. Even then moments of genuine delight are rare, such as a death scene involving two cousins whereupon one of them chooses "Do you remember we played by the seaside?" as his last words, and then later when the evil gang leader betrays one of his subordinates who states the obvious "You're evil!" coming to mind. Even when the real Drunken Knight is revealed and you think the action might step up a notch your patience is only rewarded with more sub-par choreography that uses far too much sloppy editing to create the more spectacular feats of agility possible.
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Once again the presentation matches the quality of the film, though that's hardly an excuse for this shoddy effort. The 4:3 presentation is obviously cropped from a widescreen print, with no effort to even pan and scan the proceedings as the sides are just lopped off leaving more badly framed moments than I can remember. The quality of the print is nth generation VHS with all the blooming and deterioration you'd expect, while the mono English soundtrack matches with numerous dropouts and wavy background effects. It is however perfectly audible for the most part so deserves a whole point more than the video side of things.
Extras include a UK Promotional Trailer, weblinks and previews of other 55th Chamber releases.