Come Drink With Me is a wuxia film that I’d describe as half of a conventional wuxia film, and then half a little more gonzo.
The first part of the plot is basically your standard wuxia western. A group of bandits kidnap the son of a general and hold him hostage, demanding the general release their leader or his son will die. Instead, the general’s daughter – whose jianghu name is Golden Swallow – sets out to free him and bring down the bandits. With the help of a town drunk, who is secretly a skilled martial artist known as Drunken Cat (or Drunken Knight), she tracks the bandits down to a monastery where they’ve terrorized the monks into submission and are using it as a base.
Now, up to this point, you can switch the nouns around and easily turn this into a western. Instead of a Jianghu name it’s a gunslinger nickname, replace the martial arts with gunslinging, and replace the monastery with a mission, and you’re set. However, here is where things slide into gonzo – somewhat to the film’s detriment, because Golden Swallow basically gets sidelined as the protagonist.
After the point in the film where she gets hit by a poisoned dart, her plot switches places with the plot around Drunken Cat, and we instead learn that he and the abbot of the monastery shared a martial arts master, and the Abbot had killed their teacher to steal the secrets of their school, and with it his bamboo staff. Drunken Cat had gotten away with it, but because the abbot had vouched for him, he’s afraid to fight him.
On top of all of that, we also have a significant spike in the power level of the story – with both Drunken Cat and the Abbot demonstrating, around the time of the shift in priority, the ability to shoot chi blasts (represented by fog jets launched from hoses from the character sleeves), when nobody in this film before this point had demonstrated the ability to do this. The most we’d gotten was the ability to shoot poison darts from a secret compartment in a fan.
Now, I don’t have a problem with power level increases like this. I do have a problem with what is basically the narrative equivalent of a GM shoehorning their favorite NPC into the story and shifting the plot to them, combined with taking a woman’s plotline – which had been at the start of the film the main focus of the story – and pushing it to the back burner.
And the thing is, the plot around Drunken Cat isn’t bad – it would be a good movie in its own right. It just comes completely out of nowhere and marginalizes the plot for another character who we were already invested in, made worse by it being a man sidelining a woman’s narrative.
In short – Come Drink With Me is two halves of two good films mashed together clumsily, causing both to suffer in the process. I do wonder if this is a problem with director and co-writer King Hu, or if this is with the film’s other writer. I’m planning on reviewing his other two major films – Dragon Inn and A Touch of Zen, and we’ll see when I get to those films.
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