Master, The (1980)

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the master poster

Director: Lu Chun-ku

Starring: Chen Kuan Tai, Yuen Tak, Wen Hsueh-erh, Wang Lung-wei

92 Minutes

When master martial artist Jin (Chen Kuan Tai) finds himself injured by the 3 Devils, criminal martial artists led by the white haired Yan (Wang Lung Wei), he finds shelter with young kung fu student Gao Jing (Yuen Tak). While recuperating, Jin teaches Gao his own brand of martial arts resulting in a sharp increase in abilities. When his skills are discovered by his first master Shi (Lau Hak Nin), he finds himself expelled. When Gao is gone, the 3 Devils take control of Shi’s school. Once Gao learns of the state of his former school, he goes back, determined to show these 3 Evil Masters the skills he’s learned from the great Jin.

Directed by Lu Chin Ku, the tone of the film is that of a martial arts comedy. Gao gets picked on for being weak by the elder students and the antics he and they go through account for a great deal of the slapstick. It is generally hit or miss, whether it is funny or not, but for the most part, it’s enjoyable. Storywise, the film is pretty run of the mill, it isn’t something you’ve seen a dozen times before, but its predictability is a part of the charm of these films.

Yuen is pretty good as Gao, he’s a likable lead and his fights are very well done. I always wondered why he was never a bigger star with how all around talented his martial arts skill and screen presence is. Chen’s Jin is righteous and cool for the amount of time he is onscreen, but his character leaves the film about halfway through. His action scenes, like always, are competent and he displays more finesse than probably any other of his films. Wang Lung Wei is formidable as Yan, and though his screen time is limited, he makes the most of his time on screen, tearing up fighters and trying to keep his terrible wig in place. It is a lot of fun and though the stereotypes are worthy of eye rolling, you enjoy it nonetheless. The other characters are alright but you won’t remember their names once the film is over, not indicative of a great performance.

Production is good and the film was shot almost exclusively at the Shaw Bros. Studios’ sets. The costuming is pretty bland, even with the villains, but it does its job. The music is typical of the era, and it plays it safe, not bad but hardly compelling. Fight scenes are excellent, with sequences featuring many moves and long cuts. The film keeps the pace at a good clip and there is a lot of action to be had. Fight scenes come seemingly out of nowhere and inventive sequences come up to showcase the skills of the actors. Standout scenes include Yuen terrific classic sword routine, the opening fight, and the action packed finale which is the entire final 15 minutes of the movie.

The Master is a typical kung fu film with above average production value thanks to its lineage at the Shaw Bros. Studios. Yuen Tak and Wang Lung Wei show off their not inconsiderable fighting ability and give solidly entertaining performances. With good fight scenes and a generally light story, The Master is a fun but slighty derivative MA film. While not the best performances of the talented fighters’ long careers, it is a solid entry and offers fights that kung fu fans will want to revisit.

You may enjoy this film if you liked: Mystery of Chess Boxing, Mad Monkey Kung Fu, and The Seven Grandmasters

 

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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