The Young Master (1980) / Action-Comedy
aka Shi Di Chu Ma
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, some language and some nudity
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Jackie Chan, Kien Shih, Yuen Biao, Wei Pei, Li-Li Li, Wang In-Sik
Director: Jackie Chan
Screenplay: Jackie Chan, Sang Tang King
Review published March 6, 2005
The Young Master would be the first film written and directed by martial arts superstar in the making, Jackie Chan (Operation Condor, Who Am I?), and even if it isn't his best film in either of those departments, or even in humor or action, it still ranks among his finest movies all around. The main reason comes from the ingenious fight sequences throughout the film, and even if this had no story at all (which is almost true), these scenes are more than worth the price of admission alone to see.
Chan plays orphan Ah Lung, student in a martial arts school, along with his brother. Trouble ensues when the brother is bribes by a rival school to fake an injury and join their team in their lion dance competition, leaving Lung to take his place, and subsequently lose. The brother is released from the school, and Lung must try to find him, but a series of mishaps, the worst of which includes Lung being mistaken for his brother, prevent the reunion.
The Young Master would mark the first of many films Jackie Chan would make with creative freedom for Golden Harvest; a marriage that would see Jackie Chan explore his combination of amazing stunts and broad slapstick that would see him become one of the world's premier entertainers. In short, this is the film that let Jackie finally cut loose his way, giving audiences some of the most breathtaking kung fu action ever witnessed up to that point.
The scant story and minimal character development was typical of the genre at the time, so it's hard to fault Jackie for not beefing up the writing. What makes this several cuts above the other films of its ilk comes from the splendid array of well-choreographed fight scenes, all quite stunning to behold. There are even some choice laughs to be had along the way, which by this point in Chan's career had become a staple of his work.
It isn't perfect, as it does take some time to finally get going, and the comedy doesn't even kick in until about a half hour in. Still, for Jackie's fans, this more than earns a place in your collection.
©2005 Vince Leo