If you've seen Jet Li beat people down hard with kung-fu in ROMEO MUST DIE, UNLEASHED, CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE and KISS OF THE DRAGON, then you need to check out THE MASTER, a fist-flying kung-fu gem that features loads of realistic fight sequences that unfolds the extraordinary Wu Shu specialties of a then-unknown Jet Li. Tsui Hark, the visionary director who helmed two Jean-Claude Van Damme-headlined vehicles, DOUBLE TEAM and KNOCK OFF, presented this story about a young Chinese martial artist (Li) from Hong Kong who travels to the United States in hopes of finding his master, Uncle Tak (played by Yuen Wah, the Landlord in KUNG FU HUSTLE). When arriving there, he learns that Tak was badly beaten in a fight by a former student named Johnny (Light Welterweight World Kickboxing Champion, Jerry Trimble), who is responsible for terrorizing martial art dojos across Downtown L.A. While Tak recovers from his injuries, Li tries to settle his differences with him while preparing for an all-out kung fu brawl against Johnny and his group of students in order to regain his master's honor. Shot on location in L.A., THE MASTER was sort of how RUMBLE IN THE BRONX was with Jackie Chan where a Chinese kung-fu expert travels to a crime ridden area in America to achieve a simple goal while encountering thugs and impressing people with his combat methods. He teaches a Police Force healing secrets as if he was instructing a Tae Bo class, teaches a Latino gang kung fu to help them beat off thugs and faces off against an American martial artist to save his master and other hostages held by Johnny's students. The film's simple plot allowed plenty of space for non-stop martial art fights. One of the film's greatest achievements was the nicely choreographed fight scenes, courtesy of co-star Yuen Wah who incorporated traditional kung fu and weaponry. The absence of fancy wirework and computer-generated effects allowed the fights to be believable and realistic as possible. Yuen Wah revealed his incredible kung fu specialties against a group of fighters on a building rooftop. He uses close-range takedowns, Wu Shu-oriented butterfly kicks, acrobatics, and other fight moves to show audiences that he is a true master of the art. Jerry Trimble exchanges blows with Jet Li on more than one occasion but the one-on-one finale features Trimble using Tae Kwon Do to execute his cinematic footwork while dealing with Li's counter attacks, fast-flowing jabs, and Wu Shu Kung Fu. In addition to that, fight, Li gets his leg stuck in a circular pipe handle but is still able to pull off kung fu. Li helps his newly-befriended Latino gangster buddies fight off Johnny's posse (two of them who were played by stuntman and martial artist Steven Ho- Liu Kang's brother in MORTAL KOMBAT and Ju Jitsu expert Stefanos Militsakakis- BEST OF THE BEST 2, MAXIMUM RISK, DAREDEVIL) before facing off against Johnny on top of a car. Yuen Wah is famous for his recent role as the Landlord in KUNG FU HUSTLE and remembered by fans as the man one who caught the apple in ENTER THE DRAGON and doubled for Bruce Lee in some of the sequences. He also had a small role in Chinese CONNECTION (aka FIST OF FURY) as the Japanese who taunts Lee by telling him to walk like a dog. He was a regular in old-school kung fu flicks produced by the legendary Shaw Brothers (recently saluted by Quentin Tarrantino in KILL BILL VOL. 1's opening). World Karate Champion and Tae Bo exercise founder Billy Blanks made a quick-second cameo as a gang thug but unfortunately, he did not do any fighting which was a disappointment. The reason why the filmmakers did not let him fight will be a mystery but with his martial arts skill (shown in countless B-grade Hollywood movies), he should have fought someone but instead, he is depicted as an unknown extra. Originally filmed in 1989, THE MASTER would not earn the 5-time National Wushu Champion his crown to superstardom. The film was delayed until 1992 because Li and Tsui Hark were unaware of what was to come that year when they collaborated again to make ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, which was a box-office success and Li's ticket to superstardom (in Asia). To help capitalize on Li's fame in America, the generally unknown film, THE MASTER finally got an international DVD release in 2002 by Miramax Films to give viewers the chance to witness the stunning talents of this kung fu master. Overall, THE MASTER was a bad movie with good fight scenes. It suffered form poor acting and bad antics but it still deserves a full view because it was one of a few modern kung-fu movies to feature lightning-fast, raw and street-effective kung fu to make it comparable to fight-films like ONG-BAK and THE PROTECTOR.
Action / Comedy / Crime
Action / Comedy / Crime
Uncle Tak, the old martial-arts master and medicine in normal life has severe problems with his former student Jonny, who wants nothing more than to kill his old master to show everyone who...
October 28, 2020