Plot: What’s it about?
Jun Bao (Jet Li) and Chin Bo (Chin Sui Ho) are best friends and skilled martial artists, both trained within a Shaolin temple. While they show immense promise as warriors, they’re also young and tend to get into mischief at times. After enough problematic instances, the two find themselves booted from the temple. The friends then follow their own roads in life, which takes them in starkly different directions. Jun Bao winds up with a band of rebels who fight back against a sadistic warlord, while Chin Bo serves under that same warlord’s orders. Both have become even more skilled since they parted ways, but when the two former best friends meet on the battlefield, who will prevail?
Also known in the United States as Twin Warriors, Tai Chi Master is a martial arts masterpiece. Yuen Wo-Ping handles the director duties and as usual, delivers incredible action sequences. With his choreography and Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh on board, Tai Chi Master has an embarrassment of martial arts riches. The fights are some of the best you’ll see on screen, large scale battles that never cease to entertain. Tai Chi Master is packed with action too, so as soon as the adrenaline from one fight dies down, another fight rages into motion. Needless to say, this focus on action leaves the plot a little thin. But we have enough to hang all these amazing fight scenes on, which is enough in this case. For fans who have suffered through inferior versions over the years, this Blu-ray edition is a revelation. The treatment is superb and Tai Chi Master is a true martial arts classic, which means this release earns a high, high recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
Tai Chi Master is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is not pristine of course, but it looks great and certainly better than any other home video release I’ve seen. The print has some debris and such, but the visuals still look sharp and detail is quite good, given the circumstances. I found colors to be bright, if a touch faded, while contrast is a touch soft, but more than acceptable. So for what it is, this looks quite good.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original Cantonese soundtrack is preserved here, with a nice Dolby Digital 5.1 option. A little dated of course, but this still sounds good and much better than the dub alternative. This track isn’t going to blow your doors down, but it is great to have the intended audio back in the mix. This disc also includes a Cantonese mono soundtrack, as well as an English language version and of course, English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I have no idea why Brett Ratner was involved in the supplements of Tai Chi Master, but it wasn’t appreciated. Why one of Hollywood’s weakest filmmakers should be allowed near a classic like this is totally unknown. His “insights” in the featurettes are laughable, given his own horrific stable of projects. Bey Logan’s commentary is informative, if a bit like a Wikipedia entry on the film. There is also an interview with star Chin Shui Ho, as well as a location visit.