Action Movie Fanatix Review: The Master (1989)

The Master 1989 banner

Loyalty.  Honor.  Vengeance.

Starring: Jet Li, Jerry Trimble, Crystal Kwok, Yuen Wah, Stefanos Mitsakakis

Director: Tsui Hark

1989  |  88 Minutes  |  Rated R

“That guy must think he’s Bruce Lee or something.” – construction worker

Jet Li is the man who got me into martial arts movies.  That might make me a bit of an oddity (what else is new) since most people seem to have gotten into “kung fu” movies by discovering Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or the bad late night kung fu classics.

The Master is one of Jet Li’s first movies.  Jet (Jet Li) has come to America to find his master, Uncle Tak (Yuen Wah), who now runs a small herbal shop.  A group of martial artists led by Johnny (Jerry Trimble), one of Tak’s former students, has been terrorizing local martial arts schools and Tak’s shop.  It’s up to Jet and a few of his new friends to stop Johnny and his thugs.

I originally thought Bruce Lee was too old school, Jackie Chan was too comedic and those late night “classics” were too silly so Jet Li was the perfect martial arts star for me.  Thos late night “classics” are still a bit too silly but I’ve come to love and appreciate both Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan (and Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao and Michelle Yeoh and…).

The plot of The Master is all pretty silly.  Jet bums around with some homies, meets a cute girl and gets into a fight once in a while.  No one really cares about plot, though, when it comes to martial arts movies.  The problem is, the majority of the time in The Master is spent developing plot rather than actually fighting.

That said, what fights are here are good.  Nothing mind blowing but the final fight between Jet Li and Jerry Trimble is a nice extended scene with some really solid martial arts from both men.

The Master isn’t really “must see” material for anyone other than hard core genre or Jet Li fans.  I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from seeing it but I’d certainly recommend about a dozen Jet Li movies before this would come to mind.

4 thoughts on “Action Movie Fanatix Review: The Master (1989)

  1. Let’s see how much I can remember of the comment I lost: It started . . . LOL for using “bad” and classics” in the same description. Those movies made us hungry for more Action and then Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris helped promote the genre, as all we had was the next James Bond movie (once a year), and we were starved. I had to shake my head lately when I read somewhere of someone who had watched Predator for the first time and their conclusion was it didn’t need to star Arnold. The lack of understanding of place and prominence just killed me. . I am really glad I’m as old as I am because I got to see all the Chuck Norris, Arnold, Stallone, Van Damme, etc. movies in the theater as they came out. I’m glad you came to love and appreciate the early kung fu classics. Did you ever see Eastern Condors? I love Jet Li. My favorite movie of his (that I’ve seen) is Romeo Must Die, which I wrote about for (it’s on my site too). Which of his is your favorite. It sounds like this one satisfies even if it isn’t the best. My biggest criteria is “Would you watch it again?”

    • I think “bad martial arts classics” is perfect for those movies. Everyone knows exactly what you’re talking about.

      I wish I had been old enough at the time of Predator, Terminator, Rambo 1-3, etc. to see them in the theater.

      I love Eastern Condors. I have a review up on this site from a while back. That was one of the movies that really brought me to love Sammo Hung. Now he is one of my favorites.

      I think my favorite Jet Li movie is probably Unleashed. I know he is most well respected for the Once Upon a Time in China series but it never quite clicked with me. I haven’t seen it in a while, though, so I will have to check it out again.

      As for The Master, I would ask myself two questions. Are you glad you watched it? Yes. Would you watch it again? Probably not. There’s just too many other better Jet Li movies.

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