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Young Master - Shi di chu ma
(1980): **

Directed by Jackie Chan

Wow! What a grde-A f*#k-em-up! This is one of Jackie Chan's earliest films as a director (after only The 36 Crazy Fists and Fearless Hyena), and it has an extremely raw feeling to it. Lemme start with the "plot."

The movie starts out very conventionally and rather seriously. Jackie is "Dragon," an orphan who is best friends with "Tiger," another orphan. They both belong to the same Kung-Fu school. Their school and another school have a Lion Dance competition, and Tiger, desperate for money to pay a hooker, betrays Dragon by secretly leading the opposing school's Lion Dance, beating Jackie and his school in exchange for payment from the rival school.

After a comedy bit with Dragon trying to hide the hooker, their Sifu eventually finds out what happened and kicks Tiger out. Tiger joins the opposing school as a kind of criminal errand boy. Jackie leaves his school in disgrace after a passionate speach about how they've been treated like orphans thier whole lives. Sifu says that he can go one one condition—that he return... with Tiger!

So you can see what kind of movie this is gonna be, right? Jackie searching for Tiger, trying to convince him to come back, fighting the opposing school to prove he is better, etc. Whoa, baby. Slow down there, sugar. Not so fast, honey. After this initial setup, which takes about 15 minutes or so, we are thrown into an extended hour-long (I kid you not) wacky, wacky, slapstick comedy sequence in which Dragon gets mistaken for Tiger by the cops and has to first fight some cops, then the Police Chief's son, then the Chief himself. Eventually after an escapade with some quicksand he stumbles to a nearby house to get cleaned up from the quicksand, not knowing that it is the Chief's house. The Chief's daughter lets him clean up in one of two ajoining bathrooms and brings some of the Chief's son's clothes for Dragon to change into , which leads to an "hilarous" sequence in which the Chief comes home and assumes that Dragon is really the Chief's son. Dragon, of course, assumes that the Chief is really just the brother of the lady who let him use the bathroom. At one point Chief accidentally grabs Dragon's naked ass. That kind of hilarity. They both get out of the bathrooms and wander around the house without managing to ever look at each other's faces and realize their true identities for a long time. Eventually they fight some more. Chief's daughter comes home and kicks Dragon's ass, and they put him under arrest.

Then there's a long wacky comedy sequence in which the Chief and his son are leading Dragon... somewhere (it's not clear where), and he makes repeated escape attempts. Eventually they figure out they've got the wrong guy and let him go, so Dragon goes and rescues Tiger from a bank robbery scheme in which the opposing school was gonna frame Tiger for the crime. Dragon pleads with the Chief to let Tiger go if he can bring in the leader of the opposing school, the real criminal. This finally sets up the final fight between Dragon and the head of the opposing school. After getting his ass handed to him many times, Dragon eventually wins. The movie ends with Tiger rushing home to Sifu, who is glad to see him but asks, "Where's Dragon?" Tiger points down the street where a huge procession is leading Dragon triumphantly home... Dragon, of course, being in a full body cast from the beating he took. Ha! The end.

As you can probably tell from my description, the movie starts out really standard, and then almost blindsides you by becoming a total slapstick farce of a film. Tiger isn't even in the entire middle hour of the movie! It's just about Dragon and the Chief and mistaken identity and wackiness! Wackiness, I tells ya!

That said, the comedy isn't really all that funny, but the comedy action is pretty much awesome. Or sweet. Whichever you prefer. All the comedy action scenes are choreographed really stylistically, so that you can snap your fingers along to the beats in the action. It's also really varied. The incompetent, wacky cops fight Dragon with swords. Chief's son uses a bench as his preferred weapon. Chief has a pipe that he got from the Emperor (I think), and there's a whole sequence in which Dragon has the pipe and Chief has the sword, and Dragon is trying to break the pipe at the same time Chief is trying to stab Dragon. Chief's daughter uses her skirt as a weapon, and when Dragon fights the bank robbers he remembers how effective it is and puts on a skirt to fight with, too.

I really liked Jackie's directorial style for this one, too. There are a ton of zip pans and quick zooms and fun stuff like that, even (actually especially) during quiet dramatic parts. The movie is a lot of fun visually.

That said, I can't really say that I enjoyed the flick all that much. I was just so distracted by the entire middle which, which doesn't have anything really to do with anything, wondering when they would get back to Dragon trying to save Tiger. I kept asking myself if they'd forgotten what movie they started making. It sure seemed that way! Wow! Crazy.

The jokes (except during the action) aren't really all that funny, usually, but I smiled here and there, like a time when Dragon goes to wash his hands in a stream, looks up, and sees a kid pissing in the stream just upriver from his hands. Nonetheless I really can't recommend this movie as a good way to spend an hour and a half. After I watched it I couldn't help but think, "It sure seems like I could have done something better with my time than watch that."

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