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[whitespace] The Young Master
His Biggest Fan: Jackie Chan strikes a pose in 'The Young Master.'

'The Young Master' shows Jackie Chan's action roots

By Richard von Busack

A YOUNG AND SHAGGY-HAIRED Jackie Chan gets roughed up a bit in The Young Master, made in 1980 and now rereleased. He plays Ah Lung, a student at a martial-arts academy so poor that its emblem would run away if it had legs--this according to Loud Mouth Bill, a jeering member of a rival school. Ah Lung's dissolute big brother conspires to fix a Lion Dance competition and then compounds his misdeed by ordering a hooker after the loss. Furious, the schoolmaster expels him and dresses down the entire school until they snivel. Goaded by the dishonor, Ah Lung goes on a mission to find Older Brother and bring him back to the school. On his quest, Ah Lung gets mistaken for a master criminal called the Man With the White Fan.

The Young Master is basic entertainment by Chan, who shows off his remarkable martial-arts style, designed as always to please and to coax laughs, instead of to intimidate. As a director, Chan uses lots of zoom shots to punch home the conflict. He hires cross-eyed, snaggle-tooth comedy relief and adds classical music (Prokofiev?) to fill out the soundtrack. The Young Master would be best as fodder for a That's Jackie Chan! movie (narrated by Sir Anthony Hopkins?) in which excerpts from this and some of his other early films could be compiled.

The best scenes among some slow passages depict a long conflict with a smug marshal who has a sort of paternal interest in Ah Lung even while believing him to be the Man With the White Fan. Finally, Chan has possibly the longest fight scene in his career at the end of the film. I may not have this right, since the story was a bit peculiar, but apparently after a severe pummeling, he wins the day, thanks to the superstrength he gets by drinking bong water. (As usual you don't know what was in that pipe in question and just have to hope it was tobacco.)

The Young Master (Unrated; 90 min.), directed and written by Jackie Chan and starring Chan and Wei Pei.

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From the February 5-11, 1998 issue of Metro.

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