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Review The Young Master a.k.a. Shi di chu ma (1980): Uneven but definitely an early Jackie Chan classic!

genre: martial arts, action, adventure, comedy

The Young Master could be considered an early Jackie Chan classic. But while it features a lot of Jackie Chan trademarks, the film does feel uneven. Especially the way it opens. 

It's an incredibly serious and melodramatic affair for at least twenty nine minutes, and then Jackie Chan's character is cut loose. Or rather, he himself has had enough of his brooding sifu and steps away from that to put a stop to the misery that has ensued. How can he achieve this? To bring back his brother, who the sifu kicked out after some heavy mischief. Although, I would like to argue, that most of the students in this Kung Fu school are adults with needs. I mean, if you think about it, Brother Tiger was respectful in a way by being sneaky to have sex.

So Dragon (Jackie Chan) is now put on the quest to search Tiger. It doesn't take long for Dragon to get into trouble because the police constables can't be bothered to be precise with their description concerning one of the thugs who attacked them. A man with a large white fan (carried by Tiger). It just happens to be that Dragon has a similar fan. You can see where this is going, right? This assault by the way is one of the coolest action sequences ever. It starts like you expect it to start, but then surprises you with a certain character flexing his moves. There is a reason this character is considered dangerous. Naturally, the constables need to find the culprits or someone who could pass as one. 

Now the comedy starts to kick in. And it remains to be a comedy for quite a long time. It's here where you Jackie Chan truly shines as he displays a lot of skills and acrobatics while joking around. The same can be said of Yuen Biao and Shih Kien (most famous for his role as Han in Enter the Dragon). I do have to note that up until this point Dragon is seen as an inexperienced and clumsy fighter, but every time he is confronted he comes out on top. The several lighter sequences are basically trademark Jackie Chan and the most easy to digest. But all of these fights pale in comparison to the final fight where Dragon has to fight the escaped convict, Kam (played by Hwang In-shik). He practices Hapkido which is very different to the way Dragon fights and also seems to be very powerful. Dragon struggles. But he persists. This fight takes a very long time. Over ten minutes. And every second is worth it. It felt very reminiscent of the final fight in Drunken Master where the main baddie seems to be invincible, and the hero has to reach deep within himself to come on top. Here is where it feels like some training scenes have been cut. Where you are shown how Dragon can achieve the mastery of a certain technique. Still, it's not really a problem since the fight is super entertaining since Jackie Chan is not afraid of the after effects of such a brutal fight.

Overall, The Young Master is uneven for sure, but more than makes up for its flaws by giving you many fight and trademark Jackie Chan elements. Definitely worth it!

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