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Title(s) AKA: Wong Fei Hong ’92 || Wong Fei Hung ’92 || Jet Li: The Master [US Title] Languages: ENGLISH (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround) Subtitles: None. Literally Translated Title: Dragon Travels Land Under Heaven. Film Director(s): Tsui Hark Film Producer(s): Tsui Hark Action Director(s): Yuen Wah Released: 1989 [Hong Kong] Genre: Action/Adventure Sub-Genre: Martial Arts Plot: A revered Kung Fu guru is rivaled by a disgruntled ex-student. But when this formidable foe begins terrorizing the Master’s schools, the old teacher calls on Li to lead an incredible group of former students from Hong Kong in a bid to seek retribution. Overview: Jet Li plays the student of a martial arts master who has moved to Los Angeles. His master, Uncle Tak, has been severely injured by an arrogant former American student. With the help of unlikely allies, Jet’s character manages to find Uncle Tak. After being put through intense training, his new friends are ready for a showdown with the bullies. Cast: Jet Li Lian-Jie || Yuen Wah || Jerry Trimble || Crystal Kwok Kam-Yan || Billy Blanks || To Wai Woo || Lam Ping Hong. Running Time: 88 mins. (approx.)
Fans of Jet Li should check out The Master, an early movie by the Hong Kong action star. Li is the anti-Stallone, all sinew and smile. His boyish grace makes him seem almost weightless as he whips through his fight scenes in peak physical form. Though the story isn't as strong as the Once upon a Time in China series or Fist of Legend--the plot, about a student of kung fu (Li) from China who comes to Los Angeles to help his former master, is serviceable but generic--the action scenes are dynamic and give ample room for Li's sprightly charisma. Everything about The Master is a little cliché, but at the same time it's all much more enjoyable than you'd expect. The editing is brisk, the actors are enjoying themselves, and the direction (by dependable Hong Kong auteur Tsui Hark) keeps things hopping. --Bret Fetzer
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Jet Li plays the Marital arts student of Yuen Wah (Playing against type, since Wah had a habit of playing nasty bad guys, like in the same year he played the utter monster bad guy in Iceman Cometh. Played the nasty bad guy gangster in Dragons Forever, and was Panther in Police Story 3 Supercop, one of Chaibat's thugs and the one of the vampires in Mr. Vampire.), who travels to Los Angeles to visit his former master and finds that his shop has been trashed and his Master has disappeared into hiding somewhere. Li's Master was defeated by scumbag former student and mullet-head Johnny played with gusto by Jerry Trimble who also in the process destroys his shop.
What ensues is a rather weird version of Way of the Dragon and a proto-Rumble in the Bronx. Li goes around getting into trouble with gangs,bad Taxi Drivers and not being able to understand English or speak it. Finally they settle in the revenge against former student and gigantic ham Johnny plotline with the help of a gang of Hispanic toughs that aren't exactly politically correct, Crystal Kwok and somewhat Anne Rickets.
Yes the fights aren't as good as some of the later ones Jet would produce during the 90s, but the whole movie is rather fun, if not a B-Movie, very cheap looking, though it looks like it was actually filmed in Los Angeles. The language track is rather different than usual, as half of it is in English or to say, dubbed over English. The result is rather cartoonish with the English voices being ridiculously done, the rest of the dialogue is yes in the native language of Cantonese, though Jet was probably speaking Mandarin on the set, and again, he's dubbed by someone else.
Jerry Trimble is the funniest of the group as he alternates between a Cantonese dubbed voice and a English dubbed voice, both ridiculous. As the Cantonese voice is way too deep for this guy to have.
Miramax/Dimension, bought The Master up and trimmed a lot of scenes out of it and English dubbed it to the nines, though there was still the phone gag featuring different languages was apparently trying to keep the original cut's feel of lost in translation, but failing miserably at it. Yuen Wah and Jet Li repeatedly say they don't really know English in the Miramax Dub, but then proves themselves wrong a minute later in a scene. It was a typical Weinstein hack and chop and sell job, a obscure 1989/1992 production starring Jet Li, released to the USA as a new movie from the action hero? I'm sure most were not fooled when they watched the movie ultimately. The rather 80s fashions are noticeable, including Rick James haircuts and mullets. The Dub Job is OK I guess, can't match the hilarity of the original track with it's rather outrageous English voices. The rather memorable quote from the Dub is the awful " We came here to Throw Down" line, plus a odd reference about Queen Latifah from the bad guy which sounded out of place considering this is clearly the late 80s. The score is also tampered with, a rather turgid, late 90s/early 00s Garage Rock band score with some Hip Hop beats put in. This clearly replacing the 80s-sounding score that Yee Tat Lam gave the movie that including a Canto Song during part of the movie that was replaced with Garage Rock band music from some forgotten artist.
The Universe DVD is the not the best option to watch the movie, but it is the only Region Free option. Other, better restored versions are through Region 2, 3 and Japan, but the Universe DVD is easily accessible. If not for the fact it is cropped to Full Screen from it's 1.85:1 aspect ratio. But at least still uncut compared to the Dimension edit that does away with some of the Character scenes and comedy scenes. Anne Rickets's character for instance is gutted basically in the Dimension version.
Not Jet Li's Best, but still a good movie anyway. Though I could understand at the time why the movie was held from release in 1989, this probably would have done Jet no favors at the box office in 1989. Though not quite the disaster many reviewers of the movie online have referred the movie to be.
Blu Ray Review: The CMS Media Limited version. Excellent video transfer and the picture quality is good. The sound is good and in original Chinese form. I HATE THE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK but oh well. And it plays on American Blu-Ray just in case you have some level of doubt. And no extras other than a dumb-a$$ trailer.
Movie Review: This movie may not live up to the standards of some Jet Li fans as the fight sequences have a more American feel to it kinda like Bloodsport (Van Damme) or something. Or perhaps the story and its satirical tone will f*** people up and make them insane. Unfortunately, I liked it. It does have that Tsui Hark touch of inconsistent tone. Example: Having a cute and funny moment then suddenly have a grisly blood splatter scene in the next but if you know Tsui Hark, you know his level of eccentricity. AND I LOVE IT! The story was good and consistent, some characters were good as others should of died from the word "GO", the action scenes were fun to watch but is not in traditional Chinese kung fu choreography, and all that. I did, however, HATE the soundtrack and the stupid montage. Montages NEED TO GO AWAY in Chinese cinema because they annoying and they suck!!!!!
Conclusion: 4 1/2 for the Blu-Ray, 3 for the Dimension Film DVD version and 4 stars for The Master.