|Jet Li Lian Jie||Jet|
|Yuen Wah||Chan Hou Tak|
The Master has a simple story. Johnny wants to prove he has the best martial arts school in LA. The easiest, and most enjoyable way to do this is to beat the crap, or life, out of other masters. Master Tak is primarily a physician / herbalist (his shop is Po Chi Lum) but he had taken Johnny as a student earlier. Tak escapes Johnny and his fellows with the help of a passerby, Anna, and disappears to heal. Jet, Master Tak's favorite pupil comes from Hong Kong to visit and finds him missing. Johnny adds Jet to his little list.
This was made in 1989 but not released until ‘92 or thereabouts, presumably to capitalize on the popularity of Once Upon a Time in China. The long delay before release implies that someone felt it wasn't Tsui's best work. That is so, but The Master does have its own virtues: excellent, unwired fight sequences; a very catchy theme song; and more depth than is usual for what is, at its heart, a chopsocky flick about rival schools.
Tsui comments on the proverbial melting pot of the US and finds it a work in progress. Johnny advertises his school as "All American". The black gang evicts the Hispanic gang from their digs and the Hispanic gang complains about the Vietnamese taking their jobs. It is a noble but impossible undertaking when one Chinese, Jet, doesn't even speak the same language as another, a cab driver.
Only the Asian characters were written. The black gang appear to have improvised their lines after completing the course of study at the acting school depicted in Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle. Johnny's henchmen are equally good. Li, however, is very entertaining as Jet. He is cockier and more derisive than Wong Fei Hung, much more happy go lucky. He goes to work on the bad guys with a big grin. I would have like to see more Yuen Wah. He and Li played well together and Yuen is usually interesting.
The humor is often thin. For instance, May is teaching Jet to drive when they are pulled over by a cop. Jet has no license so May tries to slide over and then has to explain why she was sitting in Jet's lap to drive. On the other hand, sometimes it works. While Jet is looking for Uncle Tak, he asks after him at several schools. One master, who doesn't know Tak, explains how Tak is a fraud and invites Jet to demonstrate his abilities. Jet does.
The fight sequences are outstanding, as one would expect, but the climactic battle is a standout with Uncle Tak going up against Johnny's men, then Jet going up against the henchmen and Johnny. There is also a nice training sequence with Jet as master and the Hispanic gang as disciples.
Jet (Jet Li Lian Jie, left) demonstrating his prowess. (~21K)
Jet (Jet Li Lian Jie) demonstrates the red balls. (~19K)
The Hispanic gang, Tak (Yuen Wah) and Jet (Jet Li Lian Jie) (~19K)