HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Mercy, The
Kickboxer: Retaliation
Molly Maguires, The
Party, The
Dante's Peak
Housemaid, The
Vendetta
Brimstone
Boys in the Trees
Once Were Warriors
Red Planet Mars
Blade Runner 2049
Devil's Express
Belko Experiment, The
Flashback
War of the Arrows
One-Trick Pony
Cloverfield Paradox, The
Beach Rats
In Between
Flesh Feast
Gerald's Game
Crocodile Dundee II
Baaghi
Bat People, The
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Tower
Message from the King
Street Smart
Mountain
   
 
Newest Articles
The House, Black Magic and an Oily Maniac: 3 from 70s Weird Asia
80s Meet Cute: Something Wild vs Into the Night
Interview with The Unseen Director Gary Sinyor
Wrong Forgotten: Is Troll 2 Still a Thing?
Apocalypse 80s UK: Threads and When the Wind Blows
Movie Flop to Triumphant TV Revival: Twin Peaks and The League of Gentlemen
Driving Force: The Golden Age of American Car Chases
Madness in his Method: Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman
Music, Love and Flowers: Monterey Pop on Blu-ray
The Melville Mood: His Final Two Films on The Melville Collection Blu-ray
   
 
  Master, The Buy this film here.
Year: 1989
Director: Tsui Hark
Stars: Jet Li, Yuen Wah, Crystal Kwok, Jerry Trimble, Anne Rickets, Rueben Gonzáles, Guy Fadollone, Derek Annunciation
Genre: Action, Martial Arts
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jet Wong is a young Chinese man who comes to Los Angeles to visit his Uncle Tak. Tak runs a martial arts training school, but is having trouble with a gang who own a rival school and are intent on closing down the competition.

While Jet Li and Tsui Hark’s relationship was cemented by the massive, genre-changing success of 1991’s period martial arts epic Once Upon a Time in China, the pair had previously worked together on this American-based action flick. At that stage Li was a complete unknown, but über-producer Hark clearly saw enough raw talent in him to give him a chance as a leading man; unfortunately he doesn’t really get much opportunity here to demonstrate such talents.

The Master’s story is a mess of ridiculous behaviour and contrived situations. Why are the rival gang so obsessed with closing down Uncle Tak’s kung fu school? And why even after they’ve succeeded in doing that they go all out to kill the poor man? The police are trying to catch gang leader Johnny in the act of fighting, but for some reason ask Jet to help them, even though he speaks no English and has only just arrived in the US for a holiday. Why do none of the cops carry guns? Does Johnny only teach kung fu to fellow villains or does he actually have any nice students? Is there really that much money in martial arts tuition anyway? All of these questions and more remain unanswered.

And why is it that English-speaking actors in Hong Kong movies are always so terrible? Even in top-class product like Once Upon a Time in China or Bullet in the Head the western actors are incredibly wooden, and it seems here that Hark has rounded up LA’s worst unemployed thespians to fill out his cast. Main villain Jerry Trimble is a decent fighter but he’s crippled by one of the ugliest mullets I’ve ever seen, whilst everyone else – from Anne Rickets playing the feisty blonde girl who looks after Uncle Tak to the trio of Chicano goons who follow Jet round everywhere – is just hopeless. Even Jet Li looks uncomfortable outside the action scenes, although he does have an easy chemistry with bilingual love interest Crystal Kwok. Only Yuen Wah, the veteran actor recently seen in Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle, brings any dignity to his role as Uncle Tak.

Hark is too good a director to mess up the action sequences, and on the odd occasion that he allows his star to perform some martial arts – Jet versus sword-wielding bad guys, a one-on-one with Jerry Trimble on the roof of a cop car – it’s pretty thrilling. But these scenes are over before they’ve begun and perhaps in an attempt to appeal to a more international audience, there is too much bog-standard non-kung fu action.

Like all early films of megastars-to-be, The Master does have curiosity value. It’s interesting that what Tsui Hark was attempting here – putting Jet Li in the gritty, urban setting of a US city – later proved very lucrative for Joel Silver with Li’s breakthrough films Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave. But taken on its own terms, this is limp stuff.

Aka: Long Xing Tian Xia

[The film may not be much cop, but Hong Kong Legends have done a decent job with their Region 2 DVD. There's a commentary from the ever-entertaining Bey Logan – who isn't shy of pointing out the film's shortcomings – plus interviews with Crystal Kwok, Tsui Hark and Yuen Wah]
Reviewer: Daniel Auty

 

This review has been viewed 4895 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Tsui Hark  (1950 - )

Hong Kong director, producer, writer and actor and one of the most important figures in modern Hong Kong cinema. Hark majored in film in the US, before returning to his homeland to work in television. Made his directing debut in 1979 with the horror thriller The Butterfly Murders, while 1983's Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain was a spectacular ghost fantasy quite unlike anything in HK cinema at the time. Other key films of this period include Shanghai Blues and the brilliant Peking Opera Blues.

Hark established the Film Workshop production house in 1984, and was responsible for producing such groundbreaking films as John Woo's action classics The Killer and A Better Tomorrow, Ching Siu-Tung's A Chinese Ghost Story and New Dragon Gate Inn, and Yuen Woo-Ping's Iron Monkey. In 1991 Hark revitalised the period martial arts genre and launched the career of Jet Li by directing the hugely successful Once Upon a Time in China, which was followed by several sequels.

Like many Hong Kong directors, Hark gave Hollywood a go in the late nineties and directed Jean-Claude Van Damme in Double Team and Knock Off. He returned home soon after to continue directing and producing movies like Time and Tide, the epic effects-fest Legend of Zu and romantic adventure Seven Swords.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Who's the best?
Robin Askwith
Mark Wahlberg
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Enoch Sneed
Graeme Clark
Paul Smith
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
  Andrew Irvine
Ian Phillips
Paul Shrimpton
   

 

Last Updated: