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The Tai-Chi Master (1993) Tai-Chi Master

Tai-Chi Master

Directed by: Yuen Woo-ping
Written by: Kwong Kim Yip
Starring: Siu-hou Chin, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh

Tagline: "Human punching bag?"

A young boy named Tienbao (Siu-hou Chin) joins a Shaolin Monastery to begin his training. The first person he meets is Junbao (Jet Li), who is younger than him, but is his senior. Tienbao soon agrees with Junbao that he will be the senior, but calls Junbao his senior when others are around.

They soon become friends with the habit of getting into trouble together, which is not helped by Tienbao's quick temper. One such incident means they have to sweep the temple, so to relieve the boredom they having a sparring session.

Some years later, they are still sweeping the temple and jousting, but they also train against each other at the dinner table and while doing the washing.

As Tienbao is very ambitious, he enters a tournament in the Monastery, but this turns out badly when he accuses his opponent of cheating and he and Junbao are attacked by all the students with long poles. As a result of this they have to leave the monastery.

On their first day of living in the outside world, they don't fare well, as they have no money and Tienbao likes fighting too much.

After rescuing a woman in a restaurant who was trying to get her husband back, they decide to stay there for the night, during which time they discover that the owners are rebels who are trying to defeat the Evil Eunuch who rules these parts. As it turns out Tienbao joins the Eunuch and Junbao goes to live at the restaurant.

After a while, the tax collections by the Eunuch's soldiers start to become more frequent, and Junbao gets involved when the rebels in the restaurant kill all the soldiers in a tax collection party except their leader.

Wanting revenge, the rebels get Tienbao's help to sneak into the barracks and assasinate the Eunuch. However, it does not go according to plan and only a few of the rebels (including Junbao) escape. Junbao rescues another one of the rebels and then goes mad when he returns to safety.

On the surface this movie is a kung fu action story, but really it is the tale of a friendship and how it changes over the years.

My favourite scenes in the film are the earlier ones in the monastery - including one where the two leads carry on a conversation while breaking bricks over their heads.

Once they leave the monastery, the story becomes more conventional which is still good in itself, but not as special as it could have been.

After the two have been friends for so long, you can't really believe that Tienbao would turn against Junbao so easily.

I would recommend this film if you have seen a lot of Jet Li's earlier work and want to see something a bit different.

Rating: 8/10

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