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January 25, 2003

Twin Warriors (aka The Tai Chi Master) (1993)

Posted by Mike on January 25, 2003 12:38 AM

When the Wachowski Brothers set The Matrix in a world where "real world" physics don't completely apply, they did so to save and recreate the superhero. The extraordinary fight scenes in that movie were put together by Yuen Woo-Ping, recognized as one of the very best fight choreographers of classic Hong Kong "wire-fu."

On the strength of his Matrix-bolstered notoriety, Woo-Ping's Iron Monkey was released in the US first as a cleaned-up video/DVD, and finally by Miramax as a theatrical release. The story was centered around a Chinese bandit in the mode of Robin Hood, and featured folk hero Wong Fei-hung, a staple of dozens and dozens of Hong Kong movies, as a child. As with The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which Woo-Ping also choreographed, Iron Monkey's fight choreography and a few entertaining housecleaning scenes exist outside of normal physics.

Twin Warriors, to get to the subject of this entry, bears the signs of Woo-Ping's involvement. The colors are honey-soaked and saturated, the action is not to be believed, and it concerns itself with the efforts of heroes against a corrupt government. In some ways, though, it's better than Iron Monkey, because it covers more ground and presents a wider world. It's also much funnier. It's not particularly interested in saying anything, but it does provide some watchable filler between the plentiful fight scenes, which are really, really good.

The movie stars Jet Li, who makes all the wires look good. He's a lot of fun to watch as a young Shaolin monk cast out of the monastery for fighting, and he gets even better as the movie progresses, going from a young hayseed monk begging for coins to total badass and tai-chi theoretician/madman. Michelle Yeoh also stars as a drunk, embittered, lute-playing kung fu master in her own right.

If you like kungfu flicks, this is a wonderful, well-executed reminder of the Shaw Brothers' "sideburns and topknots" era with some reasonable production values and real entertainment value.