Drunken Tai Chi By Mike White. Yuen Wo Ping's 1984 Drunken Tai Chi> (AKA Siu Tai Gik) is not to be confused with his 1993 film Tai Chi (with Jet Li) nor his 1979 Drunken Master (with Jackie Chan)...

Yuen Wo Ping's 1984Drunken Tai Chi> (AKA Siu Tai Gik) is not to be confused with his 1993 film Tai Chi (with Jet Li) nor his 1979 Drunken Master (with Jackie Chan).

Drunken Tai Chi is a kung fu film that deals with issues of filial and parental love, sibling rivalry, physical disabilities, obesity, marital responsibilties, fertility, and exploding millipedes.

Chin-Do (Donnie Yen) loves his older brother and feels incredibly guilty because their father, a miserly salt merchant, favors Chin-Do, giving him better treatment, clothes, and education than his older, hard-working sibling who appears to be playing the mistreated step-son role, although there is no mention of either brothers' mother or the father's wife during the film.

Chin-Do's rival is a fellow rich-kid. The film begins with a karate fight between Chin-Do and his fellow rich-kid rival on BMX-bicycles! Sure, they're pretty anachronistic, but it's fun! After being humiliated by Chin-Do's half-pipe antics, his rival decides to attack Chin-Do with an arsenal of fire works as Chin-Do and his beloved brother travel to a birthday party (birthdays are big deals in this film). Bottle rockets and Roman candles are no match for the Brothers Do who thoroughly thrash the rival who, after a mishap with a coil of M-80's, is never quite right in the head.

The rival's father, feeling he has lost face now that his only son is a blubbering idiot, hires an assassin to do away with Chin-Do and his family. Thus, the film is set up to be a "typical" chop-sockey film.

Maybe I've been lucky in my viewing of martial arts films since I've never seen two that are completely alike. Not that I haven't seen a few familiar plot patterns crop up such as revenge for a slain teacher/father, and the obligatory training sequence where the protagonist learns a new "style" of kung fu to kick much ass in the final confrontation.

Yes, Drunken Tai Chi contains both of these obligatory constructions but it handles them in a rather unique manner; the most notable being that revenge is not the central motivating factor of the film. In fact, Chin-Do doesn't even realize that the death of his father and brother need avenging since he assumes that they were killed by a natural disaster and not by a cold, bloodthirsty killer who can pound nails with his bare hands!

Drunken Tai Chi plays with your emotions. The assassin that killed Chin-Do's family, Killer Bird, is a completely despicable character until you discover that he is a mute and only kills to support his young daughter! Because of his disability, the state views Killer Bird as an unfit parent, and keeps his daughter, Teeny Bird, in an orphanage where the other children mock her and her strange father (and, by the way, our boy Killer Bird was bare-handed nail-pounding a home-made rocking horse.

Depressed and broke after the "mysterious" death of his family, Chin-Do wanders through his village and becomes indebted to a puppeteer after smashing his playhouse in a brawl. The rat-faced puppeteer lives with an over-bearing wife, for whom he is more of a servant than husband and he views Chin-Do as a way to ease his household burdens. Unfortunately, Chin-Do has never done a lick of work in his life and does more harm than good.

After Chin-Do has a near-fatal run-in with Killer Bird, the puppeteer trains Chin-Do in the ways of Tai Chi boxing, the art of absorbing and deflecting your opponent's attack. When his training is complete, Chin-Do still doesn't go after Killer Bird because he doesn't understand why this person attacked him!

This brings us to our second big anachronism of the film. The puppeteer is hired to perform at a rich man's birthday party where Chin-Do pretends to be a large-size puppet. There's a little mime in the act, but it's mostly poppin' & lockin', break-dance style! Chin-Do moon-walks on stage and starts doing "The Robot" like a pro!

The Birthday Boy is, of course, the man who hired Killer Bird to kill Chin-Do's family. When the truth comes out, the shit hits the fan in a final act that is as strange and unexpected as the rest of the film.

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