DIRECTED BY

Yuen Woo-ping

 

STARRING

Jet Li
Michelle Yeoh
Chin Siu-ho
Fennie Yuen
Yuen Cheung-yan
Lau Shun

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

1993

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 33 Mins.

Still from 1993's "Tai Chi Master."

Tai Chi Master June 26, 2018  

antagonist.

 

We’ve seen it all before; consider this another take on the novelist John Steinbeck’s classic East of Eden (1952) story, except the tragedies become tragicomic, the emotional monologues are transmuted into bare-fisted melees, and the generational time shifts carry a great deal less melodramatic pep.

 

Still, even while Tai Chi Master is for the most part a carefree yarn that’d prefer we simply have a good time to us scrutinizing what we’re watching too carefully, the weight of its plot-driving betrayal is felt. Because the first portion of the film watches as Junbao and Tienbo grow up together and eventually try to make it in the real world, we can feel the sting of the venom when Tienbo decides he likes the promise of power more than he does the well-being of his loved ones.

 

Almost everything in Tai Chi Master meshes without a snag, and proves itself a hidden gem in the storied career of the revered Li, whom the film most eagerly spotlights.

 

In the entertainer’s near-four decades of working, we’ve come to depend upon his vehicles as machines of superlative martial arts moviemaking — and Tai Chi Master is hardly a deviation from the norm. Adding to the delectability of the picture is knowing that, in a few years time, the multitalented him would see quasi-action-world domination through. A deserving development: few martial artists doubling as actors have managed to see their preternatural skill set translate so evenly and vividly onto the silver screen.

 

Stoking the superiority of the film are the supporting players, which include Michelle Yeoh (billed as Michelle Khan here) and Fennie Yuen, who hold their own as fearsome heroines. Chin’s performance is also remarkable in how well it conveys Tienbo's burgeoning power-hungriness.

 

Nothing can much capsize this solid martial arts-centric mini-masterstroke. The lamentable dubbing, maybe. But even that’s endearing in the scope of the rich, half-serious, action-packed fantasia director Yuen Woo-ping and his co-conspirators render here. Come for the promise of a streamlined thrill ride; stay for the startling capabilities of Li and his similarly expert set of co-stars. A-

T

he Jet Li vehicle Tai Chi Master (1993) isn’t a lot more than a visually stately action movie comprising flashy fight sequences strung together by a barely there storyline. But what flash! And what a likably pulpy storyline.

 

In the movie, also known as Twin Warriors in some countries, the steadily rising Li plays Junbao, a martial arts ace forced into a feud with his childhood friend Tienbo (Chin Siu Ho) after the latter decides to join forces with a sallow, self-obsessed governor who serves as the film's central