Master of Zen (1994)
Reviewed by: MrBooth on 2001-06-27
MASTER OF ZEN tells the story of Bodhi Dharma's journey to China to preach Zen Buddhism, sitting in a cave for 9 years and spreading a little kung fu knowledge on the way. Fan Siu Wong crops up as a young buddhist plagued by nightmares in which he is a master swordsman who always ends up killing people. Wu Ma plays his mentor. The plot, although I don't think that's the best term, is basically composed of random incidents of Zen philosophy, with a couple of bits of OK wire fu thrown in on occasion. It was quite interesting hearing Brandy Yuen's interpretation of Zen Buddhism, which seems largely to consist of 'don't be so bloody philosophical' or something. The ultimate expression of Zen knowledge is apparently saying nothing :-)

The film doesn't have any particular story... it keeps suggesting it will have one, but then never follows through on the events that happen. There are some great locations, but the wardrobe/makeup department seemed to be having trouble finding appropriate clothing for an Indian monk, so they evidently just picked the most interesting bits out of the women's section. Hence, for the first half an hour Bodhi Dharma appears to be a transvestite. Time passes and he arrives in China, where they have less trouble with the wardrobe, but seem to have mistaken aging for turning into a Klingon. Maybe Bodhi Dharma did turn into a Klingon, I don't know.

All in all, I was expecting something absolutely awful given that it was a cheap and cheap looking World Video DVD that I picked up in Chinatown, and with those expectations I was quite happy with the result. There's some nice enough action scenes, and interesting snippets of philosophy to ponder on. Worth watching if you happen to find yourself sitting in front of a DVD player and it happens to be on, but don't worry too much if that never happens in your life.

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