Come Drink with Me (1966)
Director: King Hu
Cast: Cheng Pei-pei, Yueh Hua, Chang Hsi
Plot: A group of bandits kidnaps the governor's son and demands their imprisoned leader to be set free in exchange.
Genre: Action / Drama
Rating: PG for some violence.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
Prior to this, I haven't had the chance to see a King Hu wuxia film. So it is only fitting that Come Drink with Me, his popular classic that began his synonymous association with the swordfighting genre, landed on my plate, or cup, first. Its Chinese title ‘Da Zui Xia’ is more familiar to those who grew up with the Shaw Brothers action movies in the 1960s.
Beloved by many and probably the most widely seen work of Hu, Come Drink with Me will enthrall viewers for the first time (like myself), and I think it remains an evergreen Chinese wuxia flick that simply doesn't age no matter how many times you see it.
It begins with an action scene as the son of an important governor is taken hostage by marauding bandits, establishing the context of the story and the ruthless villains almost immediately. In subsequent scenes, we are introduced to characters like Golden Swallow (Cheng Pei Pei) and the title character (Yueh Hua) who loves to drink.
They are our protagonists and obviously they are going to clash with the villains and try to rescue the hostage. It is a predictable movie, but it is a tight, fast-paced one, running at just over 90 minutes, and frequently punctuated by fight scenes that show the prowess of Hu as a skilled action director.
Hu would only get better as a wuxia filmmaker with his later movies, but in Come Drink with Me, what left the most indelible impression was not the actual swordfighting, but Cheng’s iconic performance as a masterful swordswoman. It is her breakthrough performance, and quite surprisingly, her only collaboration with Hu. Yet after nearly five decades, it is the film she will be remembered for.
While the legacy of wuxia has been preserved in various forms over centuries, including the popular contemporary novels of Louis Cha (Jin Yong) in the 1950s to 1970s, Come Drink with Me sort of started it all for Hu and Chinese wuxia cinema, and his films have since inspired not only moviegoers but filmmakers such as Lee Ang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000) and Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers, 2004).
Verdict: In the canon of wuxia movies, this popular classic sort of started it all and remains beloved by many.
GRADE: B+ (8/10 or 3.5 stars)
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