Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So review by Bobby Blakey
HBO has already set the standard with their original films, but now they are trying their hands in the world of martial arts with their HBO Asia brand. Filmed in Hengdian, China, these films are HBO Asia’s very first Chinese-language productions and are executive produced by acclaimed Hong Kong director Corey Yuen (The Transporter) and directed by Guo Jian-Yong, who previously choreographed the action sequences for Cradle 2 the Grave, Red Cliff, and the first three films in the Transporter franchise. One of the two films getting the home entertainment release is Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So, but does it offer up the great martial arts action fans are hoping for or will it be too drunk to deliver?
Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So follows So Chan is pampered—but smart and ambitious—and about to become the Emperor's top Martial Arts Warrior. But when he finds himself dragged into a conspiracy between two political powers in the imperial court, he loses everything, including his family and almost his life. With the help of the beggar gang chief and his daughter—plus a healthy dose of Chinese liquor—So Chan grasps the full essence of the long lost martial art skill the Drunken Fist to become a proud and driven Beggar So, determined to get his revenge and find the love of his life. The story here is based on those considered to be the best fighters in southern China during the 19th century Qing dynasty, each of the “Ten Tigers of Canton” was a master of a unique martial arts style, from the “Hap Family Fist” to the “Bone Melting Palm.” Their stories have been embellished by folk legends and passed down from generation to generation and this is one of those tales.
Here is the thing, knowing that this was a made for TV film I expected a certain production value. For some reason most Asian TV cinema like this have that soap opera look to it and could put some people off. This film had that same look and feel to it, so it does take a bit to really get invested, but thankfully it offers up some pretty decent fights to keep you entertained. Not all of them are great, but they offer up some similar to those old films of the 70s and 80s that used to air on Kung Fu Theater here in the states. The story is fine despite being all over the place at times, but it does go off the rails at times into almost a cartoon of itself when it tries to step out of the realistic nature in hopes to make the martial arts style more than what it is.
I admit that I was hoping for more with this film and while it isn’t as great as I had hoped it does entertain. I have a soft spot for all things marital arts good and bad so I might not be the best judge but can tell you it is worth checking out. Just go in knowing it is more of a made for TV movie and enjoy it for what it is.
Witness the birth of a legend with HBO anthology film Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So available now on Blu-ray and DVD from HBO Home Entertainment.