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太極張三豐 (1993)
The Tai-Chi Master

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 10/30/2010
Summary: Stunning

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/27/2005

This film tends to get overlooked a bit when people talk about Yuen Woo-Ping, Michelle Yeoh or Jet Li, but it shows off some of the best stuff in HK cinema and is something that Hollywood could not...or for some reason, would not, as most of the HK people now working in the US (including the triad just mentioned) have never been allowed to really do what made them famous in their home country and all over the world. Suffice it to say, if you enjoy Yuen Woo-Ping's brand of wire-fu, Jet's endearing attitude and awesome moves or Michelle Yeoh's breathtaking athletic ability, you should definitely check out this movie. Some of the action sequences, particularly the one where Jet and Michelle (who are the proverbial "dream pairing" for a movie like this) take on a huge group of soldiers, rank among the best of their action work. The movie also has a dark tone to it, and that helps the increase the dramatic tension. When a character dies in this movie, you feel it, unlike some other wire-fu flicks where the comedy makes the characters look like cardboard cutouts after a while.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 08/04/2005

and it is Tai-Chi," says Jun Biao (Jet Li) during the first part of the climactic battle with Tian Biao (Chin Siu Ho), formerly his companion on the road, comrade in arms and best friend. Li was probably approaching his peak as a martial artist in 1993 and Yuen Wo Ping make full use of Li’s strength, flexibility and general credibility as a man who can do anything with his body. Li is all grace and power—a combination of Pele doing a bicycle kick and Baryshnikov turning into a grande jete.

Just about everyone on screen shares his physical charisma. Michelle Yeoh is as lithe and deadly as a panther. Everything about her is movement—even when she is as still as a pond the coiled energy for the next leap, thrust or kick—especially kick—is obvious.

Villains are often the most attractive characters since much of the energy and drive of a work must center around them and Tian Biao is no exception—he is all malevolent force and maniacal determination, willing to do anything to advance in the Imperial service.

The art direction is superb—the encampment of the Imperial army, with row after row of rounded white tents, the very ornate headquarters of the eunuch Liu, narrow streets of the unnamed town where much of the action takes place. Fight choreography is brilliant and wonderfully executed. Michelle Yeoh’s fight with her ex-husband’s new girl friend—a wealthy and powerful woman who is also very adept at kung fu—is terrific. A table and parts of the table as it gets smashed to pieces is the main prop in the fight—every bit of it is used to good effect.

The first part of the movie—growing up in the Shaolin Temple, learning kung fu, being thrown out and forced to hit the road—is excellent. This leads to Jun and Tian arriving at a town during a rebellion against the emperor and his tax collectors. The rest of the characters are introduced, including Fennie Yuen Kit-ying, restaurateur, kung fu expert and rebel. There are battles and betrayals and heroism and cowardice throughout this part of the movie. The last part, which includes rescuing Michelle Yeoh who is hanging from a cross (tied, not nailed) atop a huge log structure and the last wonderful battle is an exciting and effective sequence.

This leaves the thankfully shorter middle part, which Jet Li has to carry as an actor and not as a martial artist. It is not a negative criticism to say that Jet Li in 1993 was not a particularly good actor and wasn’t up to the task of depicting a proud warrior who has been driven insane by the treachery of his former comrade. He could hit his mark and say his lines but that was as far as his characterization went—and at that point in his career it was all that could be expected of him.

There were large, complex and very well orchestrated crowd scenes, including a couple that filled the screen with Imperial soldiers. Fittingly enough, “Tai-Chi Master” opens and closes with rows of exceptional tai-chi practitioners working in unison behind the new Master of the temple.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Arshadnm6
Date: 04/08/2005
Summary: Good Overall Action Movie!!

Great old-school style movie about 2 shaolin monks (Jet Li and Chin Siu-Ho), who train in martial arts from childhood to adulthood and become embroiled in a feud with one of their teachers, who dislikes them from the beginning. After being expelled from the school they go their separate ways, where one joins a family restaurant run by government rivals (including Michelle Yeoh) and the other joins the military only to become enemies in the future. Jet Li learns Tai Chi after his friend his betrayed him.

Lots of martial arts in the intricately created format of Yuen Woo Ping’s action choreography. This film is equivalent to John Woo’s bullet galore ‘Hard Boiled’ in martial arts. However, it lacks a detailed storyline and most of the characters seem to be embroiled in themselves most of the time. There is a lesson behind the film of friendship and betrayal although none of the actors are given any opportunity to divulge into deeper matters of acting which makes them look very 2D (i.e. the basic characters dominate the screen most of the time).

Also, most of the action is focused on one versus many and the one-on-one encounters are not very satisfying as they are undermined by the earlier since many earlier 1990’s martial arts focused on this aspect. Since this movie was made earlier on during the growth of the main actors, much of the above is expected.

Overall, Tai Chi Master suits all of the characters roles (especially Jet Li) similar to Fong Sai Yuk I and II. A good film with enough going to keep everyone reasonably entertained but not intellectually challenging in regards to the plot. Good entertainment none-the-less!!!

Overall Rating: 7.1/10

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 10/04/2003
Summary: Excellent Sword Film

Jet Li and Chin Sui Ho star as Jun Biao and Tien Biao respectively, two boys growing up in Shaolin Temple, reknowned for its marial arts training. Tien Biao even as a child wants to be a big shot and his lack of restraint in a martial arts contest gets both of them kicked out, but not before their kung fu talents have grown to surpass even the temple master's.

As the two friends begin to find their way in the world, they run into a powerful eunuch who uses his position to extort money from the citizenry. Tien Biao is impressed by the eunuch's rank and wants some for himself, starting him down the path toward social achievement and power and away from humanity. Eventually, Jun Biao and Tien Biao fall in with a group of rebels, to which Michelle Yeoh and Fennie Yuen belong, fighting against the corrupt eunuch. But everything is not as it seems.

The story is decent, though it's mostly used just to connect the creatively choreographed fight scenes, which seem to come non-stop. Michelle Yeoh doesn't do much, and Jet Li's here for his kung fu not his acting, but this is one of the best movies of its genre I've seen. I prefer it to the "Once Upon A Time in China" series, which I thought was overblown.

I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a good sword film. 8/10

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/09/2003
Summary: Cracking little flick...

Wire assisted Tai Chi, great subtle special effects, this is a top notch little film. The actors are all good and characters involving. Jet Li was creasing me up when losing the plot! Possible buy this one.

Reviewed by: keeyung
Date: 02/12/2003
Summary: Sets and costumes

I don't want to discuss the martial art or plot or acting, as it has already been done at length, but I would just like to draw the attention on one point which is quite remarkable to me in this film: the art direction. As far as I know, it's the only Hong Kong film that tries somehow successfully to convey a middle-age China feel, and not the usual awful and boring Qing dynasty's one. Probably not absolutely accurate, but still amazing.

Reviewed by: mehaul
Date: 03/25/2002

What an action movie should be. Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh are excellent. Formulaic plot with two buddies taking separate paths, but with action like this who cares.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/13/2002
Summary: Very good

It seems that it's 50/50 as to people liking and disliking it. I must say, I think it's very good. Not an original story, and Jet Li using wires AS USUAL. But Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh and Chin Sui Ho are all very good. The final stand off is very disapointing, and could have been much better. The soundtrack is a masterpeice too, better than the movie on it's own I think.

Rating: 3.5/5

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: 5elementninja
Date: 12/30/2001
Summary: The last fighting scene in this movie is remarkable!

Tai Chi Master is about 2 best friends raised in a Shaolin temple who choose different paths in life and later as a result of those choices, must battle head to head. Classic kung fu as Jet Li must develop the Tai Chi style aided by Michelle Yeoh to defeat his long time friend.

How people can say the final fighting scene is not good is mind-boggling. Jet Li totally dismantling Chin Siu Ho is classic. How can you not like Jet's fluid dance-like style? This movie is in my opinion one of Jet Li's best movies if not THE best. Michelle Yeoh is simply awesome to boot.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: resdog781
Date: 07/24/2001
Summary: Definitely didn't live up to the hype

I admit, it was an alright movie. But why does everybody think this was the greatest movie ever???

Some cool little moments (like Jet Li swordfighting Tienbao with his feet, Michelle Yeoh's fight with her ex-husband's new woman, etc.) and all that...but not really enough to save the whole movie. And I really didn't appreciate the whole cheesy humor middle section where Jet Li goes crazy...that really bogged the film down, as far as I was concerned.

Michelle Yeoh did a great job with the relatively small part she had, and she was a lot better than Jet Li in this one, IMHO.

I still think Iron Monkey was better. So sue me.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/05/2001
Summary: A no brainer movie!!

PLENTY of action so forget a plot!! Michelle Yeoh shows she can hold her own in this!! Her performance is excellent!!
The fight scenes are very good in this. You'll probably see a fight every 5 minutes in this movie!!
A must see just for it's action scenes!!


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Warnerl
Date: 08/25/2000
Summary: aka Twin Masters in US/Canada

Released in US/Canada as Twin Masters. Haven't seen the dubbed version yet, but I'm sure that I'll be disappointed in it.

Reviewed by: Siu Hung
Date: 08/23/2000
Summary: only good for its fight scenes...

there really isn't much of a complicated plot here...everyone here's pretty much summed it up as a "buddy vs. buddy who turns evil" movie. the only thing that was enjoyable was the fight scenes which are great and the tai chi fight at the end was also good...and also michelle yeoh, she was solid in the little role that she was allotted. jet li still can't act even if his life depended on it...and it is now that he's breaking in to hollywood...but anyway...his expressions even tho comedic are very forced in this TCM...forced=not real=fake for those who are unsure what "force" means. he's great as a martial artist...but only "eh" as an actor.

so why is this one of jet li's best? the tai chi, the beautiful musical score, michelle yeoh, chin siu ho, and yuen woo ping.

Reviewed by: David Harris
Date: 06/09/2000

Review courtesy of Jet Li UK - The Official Jet Li UK Fan Club (www.jet-fans.co.uk)

Jet Li & Michelle Yeoh in a film directed by the legendary Yuen Wo Ping - how could it fail I hear you say ? You'd be largely right !

It is a decent example of a new wave kung fu film. From the cast of thousands opening to the man-to-man showdown at the end it is consistently entertaining but falls just a little short of being classic Jet.

Which is a shame as so much of the film is so very good. There are a good number of nicely judged comic performances that stay on the right side of over the top (we've all seen those films where the light relief is just way too silly) and add to the film.

There are some wonderful locations in the film that are done full justice by the seasoned direction of Yuen Wo Ping which manages to both capture the action and give the viewer something a little different in terms of style. The action is as you'd expect in more than safe hands with Wo Ping and his team coming up with some strong martial arts that isn't swamped by inappropriate wirework (which is not to say that there isn't a significant amount of it because there is - it's just that in my opinion it is in keeping with the rest of the film but others may well disagree).

Particularly worth noting is a damn fine pole fight that while not being quite being in Liu Chia Liang / Sammo Hung territory still makes you sit up and take notice !

The acting performances in the film are all strong with Jet himself being in more of a Fong Sai Yuk mode (by that I mean his performance is amiable , light-hearted and nicely comic). The calm authority of Michelle Yeoh is in nice contrast to the comic elements of the film. Also worth noting is the fact that the performer / actor who plays Jet's "buddy" in the film (Chin Sui Hao) gives a solid turn and isn't intimidated by the presence of two Hong Kong heavyweights.

Jet & Michelle do have a few action scenes together and they are electric (which is no surprise really). The shame is that there just are not long enough or in sufficient quantity and this is one of two reasons that prevent it from being a true classic.

The other one is somewhat harder to put into words and it's to do with the dramatic aspects of the film - they lack a certain "weight" (maybe it's a slight dip in inspiration or whatever but for me they are missing something). Sounds a bit of a thin criticism I know but watch the film and you might see my point.

Certainly worth watching but not quite a classic. Having said that however it is a film that has plenty of fans and would no doubt have many more if it had a UK video and or DVD release so maybe it is just me !

Reviewed by: tdmath
Date: 12/22/1999

Tai Chi Master is the story of two boys accepted into a monastery, Junbiao (Li Lian-Jie), who grows up to learn and live the way of Buddha, and Tianbiao (Chin Siu Ho), who succumbs to the temptation of greed and the attraction of power. Yes, this is a classic
story of good against evil. After reaching adulthood, the two are ejected from the monastery when Tianbiao loses his temper following a cheap ruse by another monk during a sparring session. In the outside world, the two soon part ways, following their
own paths but destined to meet again.

TCM is one of Li Lian-Jie's best roles, ranking alongside his performances in Swordsman II and Fist of Legend. Chin Siu Ho is also notable, reeking evil from every pore. Michelle Yeoh plays a nice supporting role, sporting her own brand of kung fu more impressively than in Wing Chun, where she played the lead. The film features outstanding fight scenes, with a mixture of both wire fu and real fighting. Much as been
made of the "5 against 500" scene where Junbiao's small band battles the eunuch's army. Although impressive, I liked the monastery fight even more, where Junbiao and Tianbiao battle the other monks who attack in pole formation. The film's attempts at
comic relief work about half the time, and the lighting, especially for the outdoor scenes, is weak but typical for HK movies. I also enjoyed the opening score, a good tone-setter. Overall, this movie rates four stars (out of five).

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

Two childhood friends escape the rigors of the Shaolin Temple tolead the lives of roving kung fu masters. Outraged by the tyrannical eunuchs, one joins the anti-government movement. The other, hungry for power, becomes a killing machine for the eunuchs.

[Reviewed by Tai Seng Catalog]

Reviewed by: jfierro
Date: 12/21/1999

It would be almost impossible to have any more fight scenes, most of which are great. Very enjoyable.

Reviewed by: Crap
Date: 12/09/1999

Great Flying People Kung Fu with action and fights all the time, except one moment when our star JanBao (Jet Li) gets beated up in an enourmous fight, whick makes him go grazy. But life must go on, and TAI CHI helps him get normal. Great choreography, Great movie..I LOVED IT!!!(also starring my all time fav fighting femme Michelle K.)..

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

Fictionalized story of the life of the inventor of the Tai Chi style, turned into a "bosom buddies who become nemeses" story. Michelle Yeoh is excellent. Contains three of the best fight scenes I've scene, including *the* best few-vs.-many fight, with wooden staves... Great "training" sequences, as the hero "discovers" the principles of Tai Chi in "Nature".

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

This film was great until the ending. It had a great story (friend vs. friend type of thing), the best 5 on 500 fight I've ever seen, and some pretty cool music. The "climax" wasn't as climactic as it should have been, for my taste. Still a great film, but if that ending was just a little more grand in scale, it would have been outstanding.


[Reviewed by Dale Whitehouse]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Honorable Junbiao (Jet Li) and ambitious Tienbiao, best friends since childhood, are expelled from Tai Chi school and have to make it on their own. Tienbiao joins the army and, with his martial arts skills, becomes the right-hand man of the ruling eunuch. Jet Li finds himself allied with anti-government rebels The rest of the film follows the agreeably predictable pattern of ingenious fight scenes alternating with intrigue and comedy.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 7