It's entirely possible that sending the audience out feeling lousy was intentional
The film makes a home in your brain and the only cure is to see it again.
Yuen Woo-ping is the sure hand behind this outstanding Jet Li martial arts flick which is among the best films in the actor's career, as well as being one of the top period martial arts films I've had the pleasure of watching. The story itself adds an emotional layer to what is a fairly novel and remarkable premise: two childhood buddies end up going their separate ways after many years of friendship, and finally become bitter enemies. Typical Chinese humour of the slapstick variety enlivens this movie, which offers 95% of top-notch action and dispels with those boring plot exposition moments. The only problem with the film is the (very) noticeable wire work, especially in the final sequences, but this doesn't spoil what is a very fluid and beautiful film to watch.Jet Li seems more self-assured and amiable here than he did in the ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA movies, and he's ably supported by a strong cast that includes an excellent Yuen Cheung-Yan as the unlucky Reverend Ling and ass-kicking Michelle Yeoh as the feisty female lead. The bad guy is actually fleshed out here, with believable motives, and it's fascinating to watch as he's corrupted by power. The film doesn't shy from the violence, which is always cartoonish and therefore entertaining. The fights are plentiful with lots of props getting smashed to pieces, people jumping and flying all over the place and all kinds of other outlandish things going on; it certainly beats the po-faced seriousness of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON any day of the week.
Tai chi is a wonderful thing. I count myself fortunate that I was exposed to it through my experience with meditation, because deep down it is the same means of absorption. It can be a viable fighting art, though if your ass is on the line and you need quick fighting skills, you better join your nearest boxing or thai school.This film about it is a superb introduction. I'm not talking strictly about the story or the fighting itself, though the story is rousing and Jet Li is an artist at what he does. The story is of how the Shaolin monk Shanfeng according to legend came to originate taiji. When you see this, it helps to know that Sanfeng was most likely a fictional person invented for political reasons. And some of the wire-work is noticeably obvious, which only abets the air of artistic license and fictional disguise.No matter. In fact, I think a lot of the appeal of this is the contrast between superficial fabrications and deep truths, the contrast being strangely affirmative because both are modeled in the same way. It flows, hard to soft and back again.'Hard' - young Shanfeng adhering to the teachings and being pure of heart doesn't cut it, his friend -turned rival- beats him, loved ones perish. The world is cruel, you don't meet force with force.'Soft' - sudden enlightenment in the mountains, madness and gibberish as meditation, coupled with a series of visual meditation in the exercise doll centered low, spinning ball and transference by wave, all of which are also keen in-sights into taiji structure.And 'hard' again in the rousing finale where he defeats hordes of opponents - nevermind the far-fetched fiction, look for the noticeable transition in Jet Li from previous kung fu into now fluid motions, circular evasion and low stances.It works much better for me than Once Upon in China or the later Crouching Tiger, where again you will see Michelle Yeoh and a lot of taiji. The outer circle is what each of the two Shaolin boys chooses as his personal fate expressed through the action plot, and this is decided by the inner 'small' circle of cultivating the mind, and the change reflected in the change of dance in the movements of the body. Nice.
Hong Kong kung fu cinema is a complicated genre to navigate for the uninitiated. People's opinions differ so wildly from movie to movie that what you consider a gem may be a relatively obscure movie. In other words, everyone has their own favorite kung fu movie, whether it's Crouching Tiger, the 36th Chamber, 5 Fingers of Death, or - in my case - this one.I just watched this movie for the second time, and I'm even more impressed. There's something about its energy that's just completely unflagging, ferocious. The meaning and the lethal glare with which Chin Siu-ho (criminally under-billed: what a performance!) lowers his hands after performing the Buddhist Palm on his superior. The impossible fight in the temple; the legions of talented extras! The endearing innocence which Jet Li brings to his character, and the fluidity of his "Taoist boxing", real or assisted (remember when he acted like the punching bag, swinging around and knocking his weight into his opponent as if he had concentrated all his weight in his feet?) The picture and sound are much lower quality than other Yuen Woo-ping movies within a year's radius (Iron Monkey, Wing Chun), but it's difficult to notice such superficial markers of quality when the pacing, emotional power and action of the movie so surpass the era's other offerings.Another of the movie's fine points is the natural flow of its few comic sections. I often find the comic relief in "serious" kung fu movies to be stilted and awkward. Slapstick can be done ingeniously (Stephen Chow movies), but when it's stuck randomly in a movie that otherwise portrays itself as serious, it can be disastrous. The humor in the Tai Chi Master is applied with a light touch, so you can laugh instead of frowning and looking uncomfortable.But what really separates the Tai Chi Master from other excellent kung fu movies with direction and energy is its firm moral compass. When was the last time you saw a movie that knew right from wrong, but didn't make a big deal out of it? Note the distinction between right/wrong and good/evil: If Hollywood made this movie, it would be a movie about good and evil. Instead, we know that Tianbao was not intrinsically evil - he was just "wrong" ("We were wrong, Master!") A movie has little to do with real life if its characters are one-dimensional incarnations of the primeval forces of good and evil. Yet in spite of all this, the Tai Chi Master is not a heavy-handed movie "about" right and wrong - it just contains the answers."My hands do not have strength and power. My heart embraces peace and calm. Resigning myself to adversity. Seeing richness out of the void. Violence be turned to peace. There are always guiding fate. Dynamic or still. Divide or multiple. Follow fate to go in and out of mortal world." The theme song is poorly translated in the subtitles, as it should be. What is verbalized knowledge but something vague and suggestive of personal revelation? In the words of a character: "I've studied Taoism all my life, but you realize its truth all in a blink. You'll be the master of masters. I should probably retire."
*minor spoiler alert*I first watched Twin Warriors a.k.a The Tai Chi Master back in August 2000 on a Saturday afternoon, the signature time for Kung Fu Theater. After watching this, I became a (and still am) major Jet Li fan! This is one of his finest films. It has the most amazing, jaw-dropping, knock down drag out fights ever. Like Fist of Legend, every fight scene is incredible. Twin Warriors are about two best friends named Junbao played by Jet Li, and Teinbao played by Siu-Hou Chiu. They grew up and trained in the Shaolin temple. They are expelled from the temple after Tienbao is set up by a rival monk in a sparring competition which leads to an awesome battle pitting Junbao and Tienbao against hundreds of Shaolin monks. The two friends wander into a village starting their new lives as civilians and meet unique people. Such as Siu Lin, played by the beautiful Michelle Yeoh, and the hilarious Reverend Ling played by Yuen Cheng-Yan who is also one of the films fight directors. But the two go in different paths, Tienbao wanted power so he joined the military that is led by the corrupt Liu Jing, while Junbao preferred to have a peaceful life and work at a restaurant owned by Siu Lin, Ling, and anti-government rebels that are against the government's taxation of the local villagers. But Tienbao's craving for power and wealth overtakes him and in the process jeopardizes his friendship with Junbao and company. He betrays Junbao and the others which send Junbao in a state of shock and depression. Junbao recovery is due to learning the art of Tai Chi to face off against Tienbao with the help of Siu Lin. The story is very good and tragic, its almost like a Chinese Macbeth, a man turned evil by the pursuit of power, and his friend the only one to stop him. Yuen Woo-Ping does an amazing job directing the movie and choreographing the fight scenes. One of the best fights is between Michelle Yeoh and her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend in the restaurant, incredible duel between the two ladies! The final duel between Jet Li and Siu-Hou Chin is amazing, Tienbao's deadly and brutal Iron Palm form against Junbao's graceful and strong Tai Chi form, which reflect the two fighter's personalities. Siu-Hou's performance as Tienbao is great; he played an amazing villain corrupted by his own ego and power hunger. The chemistry between Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh is solid; Siu Lin is a great friend and ally. Jet also delivers a great performance as a man of honor and tranquility, especially in his state of shock then enlightenment. Twin Warriors is amazing, top notch performances and brilliant full force action scenes, along with great music make this film a Hong Kong classic many will and have enjoy!***** 5 stars Ryojin20 favorite!