Born to a wealthy merchant in Canton, 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.
HBO has jumped head first into the kung-fu, martial arts genre with a slate of ten films for the Chinese TV market, other eastern markets, and us martial arts fans stateside. The first film under this new HBO Asia banner is Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So, which at first glance, might have you excited that Jackie Chan is reprising his role as the Drunken Master. Unfortunately, that is not the case, but not all is lost on this adventure.
The film follows a guy named So Chan, who is born into royalty and is on track to become a successful scholar. After taking the wrong path a couple of times, So Chan is banished and comes across a group of fighters who at some point will help him back on track. This is where he meets an old guy who knows the way of Drunken Fist style. Add in a love story, family drama, and some fairly impressive fight scenes, and you have Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So.
The tone, pace, and style are all over the place. The first part of the film is silly, funny, and will down right make you laugh. Then all of a sudden, the blood and more serious notes start taking shape while all of the comedic elements are thrown out the window (besides the horrible dialogue, which is funny in and of itself). Add to this the many different camera and lens filters to give a different color scheme and you'll feel like you're watching five different movies at once. There are also times when certain characters show up and/or vanish without a trace.
The fight choreography is quite good, with great framing and not too many quick cuts to make you confused and dizzy. That being said, these fight scenes don't happen often, which gives us long melodramatic gaps of bad dialogue. It's a good first effort for sure and brings back the fun Drunken Fist style for all of our enjoyment.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So comes with a 25GB Blu-ray Disc from HBO that is Region A Locked. There is a digital download insert. The disc is housed in an eco-friendly, hard, blue plastic case.
Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The film was shot digitally and looks mostly good, but comes with a couple of issues. The film has a few segments where lighting is different and saturation levels are all over the place, due to stylistic changes for tone. During the scenes in well-lit environments, detail is sharp and vivid that shows good facial features, makeup wounds, and beaded hats very well. Individual hairs and beads can be seen easily, along with sweat and blood drops. Wider shots look good too, however, when heavier CGI is used, the image tends to turn soft.
The detail can also be hindered a bit when saturation levels are different, due to the style changes throughout, but it never loses an entertainment appeal. Colors are rather muted for the most part and are on the cool side of the spectrum with icy blues and grays mostly. There are a couple of scenes where there are warmer colors, but they look pale in comparison to other movies. Black levels are deep and inky while the skin tones can be natural when in good lighting. There were no major instances of any banding, aliasing or video noise to speak of.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix in both Mandarin and English, both of which sound good. Still, I highly suggest going with the Mandarin option with the English subtitles.
Sound effects are loud and full with every hit, kick, take down, and swing packing a good punch. There is some heft and a good low end here too that gives these violent snaps some depth. Ambient noises of nature and other people talking in the background all sound great as well. Dialogue is cleanly presented and easy to follow along with the English subtitles. There were no pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills here, leaving this audio presentation with good marks.
Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So is the start of a big franchise HBO Asia is planning to release. There are some great fight scenes, a decent story line, and some good characters. It's just too bad that the dialogue and some of the editing and camera choices weren't executed all that well. Still, it's great to see Drunken Fist style alive and well. The video and audio presentations are both decent, but there are literally zero extras. Not even scene selections, which means you can't skip to the cool fight scenes. If you're a major fan of the genre, you'll want to see this. For the Fans!