Written and directed by King Hu, co-written by Shan-Hsi Ting, a group of bandits kidnaps the governor’s son and demands their imprisoned leader to be set free in exchange. Starring: Pei-Pei Cheng, Hua Yueh, Chih-Ching Yang, Hung-Lieh Chen, Ying-Chieh Han and Lao Shen.
The inherent gamble with classic action cinema is that it can usually go one of two ways, it can be delightfully extra or way too over the top, thankfully Come Drink with Me lands in the delightful camp. Right from the start it almost has the style of an epic, feeling on a large scale with huge attention to location and costumes. It even has an impromptu musical number to really round out that tone. The direction and aesthetic have a great energy, it holds a playfulness and is edited together well to keep a fast pace. There isn’t really an equivalent western style you can equate the theatricality and buoyancy of Wuxia cinema, it’s a world of its own. When it’s done right, it’s full of excitement and is a joy to watch, and this team definitely get it right.
King Hu and Shan-Hsi Ting create a fantastic character in Golden Swallow (Pei-Pei Cheng), playing a classic gender swap to deceive the enemy. She’s a strong, independent and fierce adversary, Cheng’s performance is entirely charming and enchanting. Not only that but she’s simply a lot of fun to watch at work, enhancing the film’s charm. The same goes for Hua Yueh, he brings a slightly chaotic or manic presence which has a fantastic evolution into something unexpected, once his full story is revealed. The entire cast work together to tick all the right boxes of heroes and villains, to create a good time.
Another classic pitfall of action films is to lean entirely on the action and forget the story you’re telling but again this team avoid that entirely. It’s continually adding to itself and revealing different layers, developing the characters and creating different tensions and relationships between them. It also has some surprises in store, and supports its story well with some great physical effects on top of the fantastic choreography. It creates a superb balance of fight sequences and story, so that instead of fighting each other to take the lead, the two work fluidly as one.
Come Drink with Me is one of those films where any film fan watching for the first time will ask themselves, ‘why the hell haven’t I seen this before?’. It’s a film that even viewers who aren’t big fans of martial arts can enjoy, it has the high energy and colour of a musical mixed with the fast pace and suspense of an action flick. Pei-Pei Cheng is a pleasure to watch at work and everything in this film works together to create a fun, entertaining experience.