Tai Chi Master
(also known as Twin Warriors
) is a 1993 martial arts films starring Jet Li
and Michelle Yeoh
. It tells the story of two childhood friends, the nice if somewhat slow Junbao
(Li) and the more hot-tempered Tienbo, who grew up in a Shaolin Temple. They would often get in trouble either because of Tienbo's temper or for being bullied by other students. Only one Master in particular liked them, though he pretended not to
Eventually, as adults, both are thrown out of the temple after Tienbo nearly kills another student who cheated during a fight.(This despite proving themselves incredibly formidable against an army of monks.) Their old teacher gives them as a parting gift a kind of wooden scroll that they are not supposed to read until they find themselves at a crossroad in their lives.
The two of them try to earn a living at a small town but end up involving themselves in other people's problems
; first they help a female warrior called Miss Li when she tries to protect a man being harassed with unfair taxes by the army. Later they save another woman, Siu Lin (Yeoh) when she comes looking for her missing husband and finds him married to the governor's niece. Hilarity (and lots of fights) ensue
Tienbo, fascinated by the power of the army, joins it, but Junbao refuses, so they finally go their separate ways. Tienbo soon rises up the ranks, while Junbao works at a pub and becomes close to Siu. It turns out however that the pub is the headquarters of the rebellion against the corrupt government, so the two friends are now on opposite sides.
Tai Chi Master provides examples of the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Siu, Li, and even the Governor's niece.
- Adorkable: Junbao may be a Bad Ass, but he's pretty naive on worldly matters for the first half of the movie.
- Bad Ass: Tianbo, Junbao, the monks.
- Bad Boss: Tianbo after his Face-Heel Turn. He applies Training from Hell which actually kills his soldiers and uses them as human missiles against Junbao in their final battle. They eventually desert him.
- Bare-Fisted Monk
- Chaste Hero: Junbao during the first half of the movie was actually scared of touching Siu. He was raised to be a monk, so this is justifiable.
- Chekhov's Gun: The scroll.
- Combat Medic: The rebels have one, who pretends to be a kooky fortuneteller.
- Counter Attack: Just look at the title.
- Crapsack World: The government is corrupt, the peasants will kill you if offered money... even in the temple there were bullies.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Junbao's fights after developing Tai Chi becomes this.
- The Dog Bites Back: The army turns its back on Tienbo when he tries to take over, largely because his promotion wasn't exactly legal but mostly because they were sick of his treatment of them.
- Dragon Ascendant: Tienbo goes from a soldier to overshadowing the man who gave him his chance, and eventually becomes the Big Bad.
- Evil Former Friend
- Face-Heel Turn: Tienbo.
- Foreshadowing: One of the rebels plays with a ball using tai chi-esque moves and philosophies.
- Heroic BSOD: Junbao has a BIG one.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tianbo. Until after his Face-Heel Turn.
- Klingon Promotion: Tianbo assumes this, however it doesn't really take since The Dog Bites Back.
- La Résistance
- Love Interest: The two women seem to be this for our protagonists. However only Siu actually is; Li gets killed for refusing to be Tienbo's concubine. They're not specifically shown to have gotten together, though.
- Made of Iron: Junbao and Tianbo. A group of hired guards beat them up at one point. Their reaction? Pick the coins on the ground.
"Earning money is so easy!"
- Martial Pacifist: Junbao, especially after his powerup.
- Meaningful Name: Junbao was renamed Zhang Sanfeng by the doctor who tried to treat his madness. Sanfeng was explained in-movie as meaning "3-times crazy". Junbao later mistook the Feng part to be prosperity.
- Mid-Season Upgrade: Or rather mid-movie upgrade.
- Origin Story: ... of tai chi.
- The Pollyanna: Jet Li's character, but even it has its breaking point (his best friend's Face-Heel Turn, specifically).
- Training Montage: Several times. Notably Tienbo's Training from Hell for his troops plays this wildly differently than most martial arts movies.
- The Mole: Tienbo. Not.
- Mood Whiplash: The movie feels like a comedy for the first half; afterwards... not so much. On a smaller scale, Junbao's Heroic BSOD alternates between him seeming broken and empty and slapstick.
- Wire Fu
- World of Badass: After leaving the monastery, the first thing that happens to the duo is they encounter a street mugging thwarted by an Action Girl, then take refuge in a restaurant where a fight breaks out between a street musician and the governor's sister. That night they accidentally find out that the restaurant is a rebel base camp.