I’ve only seen one other King Hu film, his later work A Touch of Zen, so my knowledge of the director is rather slim. Still, from what I’ve gathered, Come Drink With Me seems to be on the earlier end of his craftsmanship, as well as his filmography. While A Touch of Zen is rightly regarded as his masterwork, this previous film is what put him on the map, and it is still regarded as one of the best Hong Kong films of all time. Now, of course, comes my counter-opinion; while this was quite nice, and very stylish (which made for fairly entertaining viewing), it definitely showed the lack of skill and finesse that Hu had at this point in his career.
The film follows a tug-of-war of sorts between a group of bandits and the military assigned to protect a small village. The bandits, whose leader is currently a prisoner of the police force, kidnap the general’s son in order to enact a prisoner exchange. The general, however, send his daughter, a martial arts expert known as Golden Swallow, to rescue him. Along the way, she runs into Drunken Cat, a buffoon and beggar who heads a group of singing children to make money. After a brawl or two, where Golden Swallow is injured, Drunken Cat reveals himself as a master martial artist and leader of a Kung Fu sect, and after nursing her back to health, the two set out to get the general’s son back and defeat the bandits. First off, I was surprised the film was in color; I was expecting a black-and-white picture as one of Hu’s early works, so to get a film not only with color but that knows how to use it was nice, to say the least. What surprised me the most, though, was the fact that, even in a film supposedly centered on action sequences, I still couldn’t help but be mildly bored watching it. The plot is rudimentary, only there to set up the fighting scenes, but the actual fighting scenes themselves were, for lack of a better way to put it, too stagnant. I’m sure if one were to actually go through the film with a fine-toothed comb and keep track of how much fighting there is versus how much of characters standing in preparation for the fighting, in a constant standoff with several other men, it would probably end up 50/50. That and the fact that what musical score there was completely dropped out during these sequences made for a really empty viewing experience. When most of my watching the film was me looking forward to the action sequences, and then getting constantly let down when they did show up, then to me there’s something wrong.
I didn’t go into what I did like about the film very much, except for the nice use of color, mainly because there really wasn’t very much to like. It wasn’t bad, but neither can I call it good, mostly due to the film ultimately failing at its single purpose for even being made. I can’t even really give any good reasons to go out and see this one; anything I could come up with, I could probably say about A Touch of Zen as well, even with that film being more than twice the length of this one. I don’t know; I guess what I’m most miffed about is that I went into this with basically no expectations, and I still came out the other end relatively let down. Undoubtedly a good number of films owe a debt to Hu and this film, but there wasn’t getting around the notion that all the films that would come in its wake would end up perfecting the formula that Come Drink With Me only sketches the foundations of.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10