Anthony Nield has reviewed Optimum Asia’s Region 2 release of Drunken Master 3, a disappointing effort despite having Lau Kar Leung behind the camera and Andy Lau in front.
To open this review with a plot précis is a difficult task as Drunken Master 3 is more of a hodgepodge of ideas than a fully coherent piece. Obscure political machinations and an adolescent incarnation of Wong Fei Hung may provoke an interest but this is a film more concerned with slapstick and melodrama, complete with male drag jokes, a comically fake pregnancy and borderline offensive gay stereotyping.
An understandably broad affair then, and one that soon becomes wearisome as little respite is given from the constantly overblown antics. Indeed, whenever some promise is shown it swiftly becomes short-circuited. Take the period detail as an example: initially it looks as though it may be providing Drunken Master 3 with a semblance of style, but is continually contradicted by the incongruous – and, of course, anachronistic – employment of a synthesised score supplemented with healthy doses of slap bass. Likewise, the lack of Jackie Chan (lead in the previous Drunken Master entries, though this episode has scant connections to either) is seemingly made up for by the presence of Andy Lau, charismatic star of the Infernal Affairs trilogy and a number of Wong Kar Wai pictures. Yet despite receiving top billing, his total screen time amounts to little more than a third of the duration, giving way to the less interesting, and less talented, Willie Kwai.
The biggest disappointment, however, comes with the knowledge that Lau Kar Leung is at the helm. One of the major directors to serve under the Shaw Brothers name, he produced a number of masterpieces during the seventies, most notably Dirty Ho and Executioners From Shaolin. Both were adventurous entries in his filmography, brimful of (occasionally subversive) ideas which made them hard to pin down and boasting some fine photography. With Drunken Master 3 Lau finds himself without Shawscope – or indeed any other kind of ‘scope – and seems visibly hindered by such a situation resulting in a near muddled sense of composition where in the past he had made the task seem effortless. Moreover, Drunken Master 3 may be as equally difficult to define as these earlier works, but for all the wrong reasons; free of any such nuance or sense of expression, the result is nothing more than an intermittently engaging mess.
Disappointingly, Optimum are releasing Drunken Master 3 in a scratchy, murky print. There are clear signs of age throughout, most notably during the darker scenes where portions of the screen become imperceptible. The film has been transferred anamorphically at a ratio of 1.78:1 but there’s a definite sense that the disc’s producers could have done better. The same impression is given with regards to sound. The original Cantonese dialogue is present, with optional English subtitles, but the soundtrack is far from serene. Cracks and pops are audible throughout, most notable during reel changes. As a final disappointment the disc is also completely lacking in any form of extras.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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