Psst. Hey, wanna see a movie where everyone fights? Then Tai Chi Master might be just what you’re looking for.
Right from the start, where we’re introduced to the young Junbao and Tinbao as junior monks at Shaolin Temple, they’re scrapping. Fortunately, we’re spared too many “lovable tyke” moments, as the lads soon grow into Jet Li and Chin Siu Ho, still exercising their skills on laundry, lunch, and other pupils. Tinbao’s hasty temper lands them in a major pole fight, pitting our lads against everyone else at Shaolin.
Despite the overwhelming odds, Tinbao (Chin Siu Ho) and Junbao (Jet) survive, but for their impertinence are launched from Shaolin Temple onto an unsuspecting world. Here the monkish but lethal innocents meet up with the lovely Fennie Yuen, as a girl thief cum revolutionary, and Michelle Yeoh, as a strolling singer seeking an errant husband. The troupe now finds the husband, along with his new wife, whose arrogant contempt incites another fight, this time with Michelle. A combination of bar brawl and cat fight, this one has the girls kicking heads and breaking the furniture. Note to self: must remember to be incredibly polite to Ms Yeoh at all times, as having my teeth kicked across the room often offends.
The lads part ways when Tinbao goes to The Dark Side: he takes a position with the army, and you know then it’s going to be good versus evil, There Can Be Only One, and it’ll all end in tears. It’s Junbao and the Rebels against Tinbao and the evil Empire, as near as dammit, and you can be assured that no-one’s going to sit around and debate the issues: no, it’s putting the boot in all the way. Even the delicate and beautiful Fennie Yuen lands some good ones on some bad guys, while the entire roster of extras seems bent on being discovered as the next Bruce Lee, so spirited is the fighting. Yuen Woo Ping must have had to clone himself to direct some of these scenes, I swear: there’s too much going on for any one man to watch over.
If that’s not enough for you, there’s huge armies, treachery, a dash of religion, eunuchs (well, one eunuch anyway), spite, wine, spears by the hundred, and more than a few hair extensions. Oh, and some tai chi. And did I mention Jet Li? The man is incomparable in motion. And when he loses his mind (Dave), he gains tai chi, so instead of meditating on a mountain he goes out to kick some unrighteous arse, with a marvellously fluid style that looks like oil on water and works like a red-hot poker up the jaxy.