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Come Drink with Me
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by Jay Seaver

"'Drink' for everyone!"
5 stars

Cheng Pei-pei was cast in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" because Ang Lee remembered her fondly from the films she made as a young woman, with several articles specifically mentioning this one, also a signature film of King Hu. It would be Hu's last for Shaw Brothers before moving to Taiwan, regarded as both a pivotal moment in the wuxia genre and a great film in its own right. It is not an undeserved reputation.

It starts out with a caravan being ambushed, with government official Zhang Buqing (Wong Chung) taken prisoner by rebels including "Smiling Tiger" Tsu Kan (Lee Wan-chung). In response the their demands, his father sends his other child, the Golden Swallow (Cheng Pei-pei), to negotiate his release - that is to say, rescue him. She takes up residence in the local inn, although the other non-bandit guest - "Drunken Cat" Fan Tai-pei (Yueh Hua) - may prove ally or hindrance.

Hu made a number of films set in inns - most notably, Dragon Inn - and sometimes entirely constrained to them, although Come Drink with Me is rather open. It still has some of the moments that Hu (and others) would return to off and on, generally playing more as straight-up action with relatively little intrigue, including not making a big deal out of folks initially thinking Golden Swallow is a man. In some ways, Hu is doing what the greats often do in influential movies, presenting things with a casual confidence that later imitators don't quite have.

That's also a fair description of Golden Swallow herself. She appears at the inn with a gruff confidence, demanding alcohol and casually fending off the inevitable attempts to murder her; later on, she'll respond to being surrounded by villains with a cocky "I'm glad I've got you all in one place". Cheng Pei-pei is wonderfully no-nonsense in the role - and up for the physical demands of a lot of fighting scenes as well - delivering a confident performance that hopefully made Golden Swallow a feminist icon in her day: If characters took her for a boy early on, that's more their mistake than her presenting herself as something she's not.

Cheng is hardly in this by herself, of course, although the Drunken Cat turns out to be the Golden Swallow's main ally. Yueh Hua is great in that part, often serving as as the comic relief even as he shows some kung fu chops of his own. They've got a high-quality group of villains to face off with as well: Chen Hung-lieh is a solidly imposing mid-level guy as "Jade-faced Tiger", while Yeung Chi-hung makes a strong enhance midway through the movie as a corrupt abbot. And while Yeung may be the best screen fighter of the bunch, it's hard to not have great fondness for Lee Wan-Chung as Smiling Tiger (subtitled "Sleek-faced Tiger" in the version screened), the sort who brings charm and flamboyance along with the sadism from the very start.

Hu and action director Han Ying-chieh put the cast through plenty of action on-screen, and it generally looks very good, actually seeming more grounded as the movie goes on after initial demonstrations of superhuman skill, even if the fights do get bigger. Hu does a fine job of keeping the movie on an even keel even as he's got the characters running around with a great deal of swagger and the tensions escalating - he never lets his attempts to make the next bit bigger and better than the last outpace what the audience will buy into.

Marry that skill to the typical Shaw Brothers production values, and it's no wonder that Hu was able to strike out on his own and help build Taiwan's film industry aafterward, or that Cheng Pei-pei would become a star (still working today). "Come Drink with Me" may sometimes be a bit of a low-key classic, but it's a great swordswoman movie all the same, an essential piece of Hong Kong movie history.

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originally posted: 09/30/14 13:11:04
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User Comments

10/22/14 Richard Brandt Gorgeous-looking, fun film whose influence on CROUCHING TIGER is inescapable 5 stars
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  DVD: 27-May-2008


  N/A (MA)

Directed by
  King Hu

Written by
  King Hu
  Yang Erh

  Pei-pei Cheng
  Hua Yueh
  Hung Lieh Chen

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