Master of Zen (1994)
Reviewed by: pjshimmer on 2005-08-08
Summary: Flawed but passable
This is a generally nice movie about the Indian buddhist who spread philosophy in China and taught kung fu to Shaolin monks. Highly philosophical and spiritual, the movie is more of a fantasy folklore than a historical account, as Dharma is seen leaping over a river and reincarnating in front of many people, not to mention he lived over 150 years old at the end of the movie. It is certainly a bit funny to see wire-driven choreography all over this kind of movie, especially in scenes with Dharma in combat. This implies that the founder of Chinese kung fu is expert in leaping, flying, turning in air. But, considering the mythical nature of the film (it's obviously not trying to be realistic), the wire-driven fights work well part of the whole system.

My main beef is that like many HK movies, this one is rushed. Many scenes have no transition at all, which could be due to a bad cut on the VCD. Also, I find Dharma's decision to give up the throne to pursue spiritual enlightment hardly convincing. Apparently, he sees the phrase "Who am I before I was born?" and ponders for days, before he can't take it any more and must seek wisdom. But giving up the throne to do so? I just don't see what motivated him in this movie, since he was not really a believer of religion before.