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Film / Tai Chi Master

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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:

  • A Lighter Shade of Black: The Eunuch Governor Liu-jin, just barely. He doesn't quite count as a Noble Demon or Anti-Villain because he's still an evil and deplorable Jerk Ass villain, but his soldiers don't hate him like they do Tienbo. And at one point in the movie, after he chastises Tienbo for still being attached to women and Tienbo in return kills Miss Li, Liu-jin says that he never actually told Tienbo that he had to kill Miss Li, implying that he didn't really care if Tienbo kept her as a love slave but simply meant for him to realize he shouldn't let a woman get in the way of his ambitions. He also counts as a bit of a subversion of the trope because even though he isn't as psychotic or as unstable as Tienbo, he's still enough of a despicable Hate Sink character that when Tienbo kills him for good, it's still a legitimate Kick the Son of a Bitch moment.
  • Adorkable: Junbao may be a badass, but he's pretty naive on worldly matters for the first half of the movie.
  • Bad Boss: Tienbo 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.
  • Butt-Monkey: The rebel Taoist fortuneteller/doctor
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing: One of the rebels plays with a ball using Tai chi-esque moves and philosophies.
  • Lady Drunk: Siu Lin repeatedly drowns her sorrows over her ex-husband's infidelity, until Junbao snaps her out of it.
  • Love Interest: The two women seem to be this for our protagonists. However only Siu actually is; Li gets killed after refusing to be Tienbo's concubine. They're not specifically shown to have gotten together, though.
  • Made of Iron: Junbao and Tienbo. They initially use this to sell their services as human punching bags. 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. He easily disarms a group of soldiers without killing them.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Which is interpersed with scenes of Tienbo abusing his troops.
  • 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 niece. That night they accidentally find out that the restaurant is a rebel base camp.


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