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The Tai-Chi Master
Year: 1993 "I have yet to sweat."
Jet Li tries out that Tai-Chi stuff
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Action: Yuen Woo-Ping, Yuen Cheung-Yan
Cast: Jet Li Lian-Jie, Michelle Yeoh, Chin Siu-Ho, Fennie Yuen Kit-Ying, Yuen Cheung-Yan
The Skinny: Fine action sequences and the once-in-a-lifetime pairing of Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh make Tai-Chi Master required Hong Kong Cinema viewing. That Yuen Woo-Ping guy helps some, too.
by Kozo:

     Yuen Woo-Ping cements his position as one of Hong Kong's top fight choreographers with this imaginative and impressively staged costume kung-fu flick which pairs Jet Li with queen-of-kicks Michelle Yeoh. The plot may not be great shakes, but it's intelligible and has fun with its "origin of Tai-Chi" premise.
     Jet Li is Junbao, a Shaolin disciple who's expelled from the Shaolin Temple with childhood friend Tienbao (Chin Siu-Ho). Tienbao was the cause of their expulsion as his aggressive attitude placed him at odds with the rest of the temple. Junbao chooses friendship over life at the temple, and after the first of many insane fight sequences (many of which feature two or three people versus six hundred strong), the two strike out to become wandering kung-fu practioners.
     However, their eventual paths could not be more different. After striking up a tentative alliance with anti-government rebels (including Michelle Yeoh and Fennie Yuen), Junbao and Tienbao go their separate ways. Junbao remains with the resistance, while Tienbao joins up with evil Eunuch Jin. The promises of wealth and power seduce Tienbao, and even though he supposedly remains friends with Junbao and company, that lifelong union becomes jeopardized. Eventually, the two must square off against one another, and Junbao cannot defeat Tianbao's Iron Palm technique. Junbao must come up with his own moves to counter the Iron Palm, so he invents his own new martial art. Guess what it's called.
     Calling this a classic Jet Li film would not be an exaggeration. The fight sequences are top notch, and Li displays his trademark power and charisma—as well as some flashes of boyish charm. Michelle Yeoh's role here turns out to be a lesser one than Supercop, as her character here is completely in the shadow of Jet Li's Junbao. Yeoh may beat up more than a few evildoers, but Li's bodycount is exponentially greater. More often than not, it's Yeoh's job to simply stand around and watch Jet Li fight. In fact, most of the movie consists of people standing around watching Jet Li fight. Ardent fans of Yeoh might be miffed, but even they have to admit: this is one seriously satisfying martial arts spectacle. Yuen Woo-Ping is arguably Jet Li's top collaborator (though a strong argument could be made for Corey Yuen). The pair also worked together on Once Upon a Time in China II, Fist of Legend and Black Mask. (Kozo 1995/1999)

Note: • Yet another Miramax owned title, The Tai-Chi Master has already had a Dimension Films Home Video release titled The Twin Warriors. Truly, an evocative title.
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Universe Laser & Video Co., Ltd.

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