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Import Corner: The Master (88 Films) Blu-ray Review


88 Films bring The Master, an often overlooked Jet Li film, to blu-ray with a brand new transfer, multiple sound options, and a nice selection of special features.

Studio: 88 Films
Release Date: May 28th, 1992 (theatrical) / September 28th, 2020 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes 54 seconds
Region Code: B (locked)
Picture: 1080p (1.85:1 aspect ratio)
Sound: Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (remix), Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (original), English DTS 5.1 (remix), English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (original) 
Subtitles: English and English SDH
Slipcover: Yes (limited)
Digital Copy: No
Starring: Jet Li, Yuen Wah, Crystal Kwok, and Jerry Trimble
Written by Kee-To Lam, Tai-Mok Lau
Directed by Tsui Hark
Rating: BBFC: 18 (contains strong violence)

THE FILM



Uncle Tak, owner of the Po Chi Lum herbal shop was on his way home when bad-boy ex-student Jonny shows up challenging him to a match. Jonny has defeated and killed every master there is and is now trying to prove he is the best to his street-gang disciples by killing his own master in unarmed combat. A fight begins (with the shop getting halfway demolished in the process) and Tak is badly beaten and wounded. Anna, a young college student on vacation shows up and rescues Tak and takes him to her home to get better. Enter Jet, Tak's disciple, who remained in China because he was afraid to come to America. Finally getting the courage, Jet comes to L.A. where he tries to understand American customs and ways of life and to reunite with his master. But he gets sidetracked when the Barrio Boyz (Rolando, Chui, and Fernando) take his bag after he gets off the bus and Jet chases after them (using gymnastic skills along the way). The Barrio Boyz are amazed by Jet's skill and ask him to be their teacher. Jet refuses and then he meets up with them again and helps them when a rival gang torches their home and bullies them. Jet decides to look after the Barrio Boyz and they in turn help him search for Uncle Tak. Things get even more hectic when he meets May Hong, a woman who Uncle Tak pays his rent money to at the bank so his shop can stay open. May is having problems of her own with her sleazy boss, Paul Lee and the fact that Jet is around the shop that she was supposed to foreclose on doesn't help matters either. May and Jet get off on the wrong foot twice when they meet each other, but they eventually learn to get along. When Tak and Jet are finally reunited, Jet teaches the Barrio Boyz some of his fighting techniques and together, the group prepares for battle when Jonny sets deadly sites not only on finishing Tak, but Jet as well. And pretty soon, Jet is forced to turn from student to teacher and the City of Angels will never be the same!

THE MASTER is a fish out of water story told so poorly that the excellent fight scenes can't save this thing. 

The film begins promising enough. We see a girl get kicked out of her gymnastics school for tripping a classmate. We also see Yuen Wah as a herbalist as he is healing a man who got into a fight. So, we are set up with two people we are meant to believe are our heroes. We then meet the villain who has the most glorious of mullets. This golden boy was a student of Yuen's coming to challenge him. After a fairly brief but cool fight scene, the gymnastics girl comes to Yuen's rescue and both drive off with the villain and his goons giving chase. The gymnastics girl takes Yuen to her place so he can heal up.

This is a pretty decent set up to what could have been a decent film. We are both our protagonist and antagonistic and we know why they are at odds. The problem is the film introduces our real protagonist in the form of Jet Li. This wouldn't really be a problem but it throws the film off by adding more plot to a film that didn't really need it. Li has his stuff stolen the moment he gets off his bus and when he confronts the guys who had taken his stuff all of sudden want to become his students. Even more useless characters are added to this because of this. 

The film grinds to almost a halt during the middle portion. Nothing of real consequence happens other than Jet Li becoming more and more annoying throughout and a few short fight scenes here and there. The film really picks up during the third act where Li is attacked on a bus by a Rick James impersonator that puts Dave Chappelle to shame. This scene brings life to a film that flatlining, but then the finale comes about and really tries to salvage the film.

The film’s finale takes place on the roof of an office building in L.A. Jet Li and the golden boy showdown, but not before Li puts the hurt on many a henchman. Li’s body double makes many appearances here and he does throughout the film, but the fights are nonetheless thrilling. The scene climaxes when Li and the golden boy jump out of the building as an explosion goes off. They end up hanging from hoses wrapped around the logo on the outside of the building. This climax is so big that you wonder why the rest of the film had to suffer. I mean, the filmmakers clearly wanted the film to go out in high style, but this climax isn’t really worth sitting through the slog of a film that precedes it. I think it would have been better to pepper the film with better fight scenes to keep the audience engaged, but that’s just me talking. 

THE MASTER is not a good film at all. There are way too many characters with too many scenes for some and not enough scenes for others. The film opens strong but then settles into an almost 80’s sitcom feel before giving us a climax worthy of a far better film. Jet Li is pretty annoying here (I happen to like him, just not in the film) and I wished that the film had focused on Yuen Wah’s character. Skip this one.

THE PICTURE AND THE SOUND



Sourced from a brand new 2K remaster, and presented in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, THE MASTER looks really good. Grain is light, but intact and the film has a nice film-like feel to it. Colors, skin tones, and black levels are just right and everything is balanced out nicely. There are a number of shots that are slightly out of focus, but I think that’s a problem with the source material and not a problem with the remaster. 

We’ve got five language tracks to choose from with the original Cantonese winning out, although I am always partial to the original English dubs from the 70’s and 80’s. These dubs bring back fond memories as many of the same voice actors were used for these dubs. It was nice hearing some familiar voices on the dub track here.

THE MENUS





THE PACKAGING






THE FEATURES 


Audio Commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema

Audio Commentary by Kung Fu Bob O’Brien

An Interview with John Kreng (14m 16s, HD, 1.78:1)

Crystal Clear (12m 28s, SD, 1.78:1) An interview with actor Crystal Kwok.

The Master (15m 38s, SD, 1.78:1) An interview with actor Yuen Wah. In Cantonese with English subtitles

The Insider (17m 27s, SD, 1.78:1) An interview with stuntman John Kreng.

Original Trailer (4m, HD, 1.85:1) Cantonese with English subtitles.

English Trailer (2m 31s, HD, 1.78:1)

The features here are pretty good. The commentary track featuring Leeder and Venema is great with tons of information about the production and history of the film, along with their love for the main villain’s beautiful mullet. The Kung Fu Bob commentary track is also very good. There is one new interview (with John Kreng) along with three interviews taken from the Hong Kong Legends release of THE MASTER back in the day. All of the interviews are informative and fun to watch although Kreng’s new interview repeats a lot of the older interview’s stories. All in all, this is a nice selection of features for a lesser known film.

THE WRAP-UP



88 Films has done a wonderful thing in bringing THE MASTER to blu-ray despite my misgivings about the film. The picture and the sound are outstanding and the special features are pretty good. I am glad that they continue to bring 70’s and 80’s martial arts films to blu-ray with these brand new transfers and special features and look forward to what they bring us next.

THE SCREENSHOTS


THE FILM:



















THE FEATURES:










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