If you sat through all of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (not everyone did), then you saw Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh engage in a deadly sword battle -- Li as the evil resurrected Dragon Emperor and Yeoh as the good guardian of eternal life. Their skirmish was far too brief to understand why these two have enjoyed so much international success. May I invite you to set aside any fear you might have of sub-titles and enjoy the awe, power, and majesty of Li and Yeoh in their prime?
Tai Chi Master, which was released on DVD in a new Special Collector's Edition from Dragon Dynasty this past week, begins with two young monks in training at the famed Shaolin Temple. Jun Bao is younger, shorter, and kinder; Tien Bao is older, taller, and ambitious. Jun Bao grows up to be Jet Li and Tien Bao transforms into Chin Siu Ho. After they are (perhaps wrongfully) expelled from the temple, Tien Bao turns to the dark side and becomes the henchman for a powerful, evil warlord, while Jun Bao joints a group of rebels, led by Michelle Yeoh, before inventing Tai Chi (!).
Yuen Woo Ping is best known in the US as the action choreographer for The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but in the films he directed on his own (Iron Monkey, Wing Chun), the action is fully integrated into the story. Tai Chi Master is no exception; it's jam-packed with wire-assisted, incredibly intricate movement, sometimes involving dozens of acrobatic martial artists. Some purists despise "wire fu," but I'm not a purist, and Tai Chi Master is dazzling and showcases what Li and Yeoh -- and the oft-spectacular Chin -- could do.
The film was released in the US as Twin Warriors; though I did'nt see the previous Region 1 DVD, I have the Mei Ah Region 0 DVD from Hong Kong, and the picture looked soft and faded. The new Dragon Dynasty DVD, originally slated to be a two-disk edition but released on one disk, looks miles better and includes a very decent collection of extras: audio commentary by Bey Logan, an interview with Chin Siu Ho, and features with critic Elvis Mitchell and everyone's favorite director, Brett Ratner.
And if you're really adverse to sub-titles, an English-language dub is included. But, seriously, give one of the Cantonese tracks a listen. You might be surprised how easy it is to get caught up in the movie.