Shaolin vs. Tai Chi
Distributed by Video Asia
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Sometimes, in my quest to find a kung fu film that reminds me of the movies I used to watch on Black Belt Theatre when I was a kid, I come across a movie that I wish I never laid eyes on. The final film in the Shaolin Vs DVD from Video Asia, Shaolin vs. Tai Chi, is one such movie.
As the movie opens, a ruthless Mantis Master (Eagle Han Ying) hunts down a martial arts family, destroying everyone except a young mother and her infant son who she has hidden away under the cover of brush, tucking half of a jade pendant in his diaper. Flash forward over a decade into the future and we find monks from the Shaolin Temple and Tai Chi Masters searching for new students for their upcoming tournament. One of the Shaolin Temple monks is waylaid by a band of beggars. He chases them all over the local marketplace until he gets back his belongings and discovers that the leader of the gang (Yau Kwok Tung) might have what it takes to be a Shaolin fighter. He offers to take him on as a student and the young man accepts. Meanwhile, the Tai Chi Masters have chosen the Mantis Master's son as their student.
As the movie unfolds, Yau Kwok Tung's character gets himself in trouble and ends up in the tutelage of a Drunken Master (Jacky Lee). As he enters into the tournament with the Mantis Master's son, the Shaolin Temple is robbed by a band of ninjas working for the Mantis Master. It is decided that the Shaolin disciple and the Tai Chi disciple will embark on a journey to recover the sacred scrolls of the Shaolin Temple. Along the way, they make a shocking discovery about the identity of the Mantis Master and each other.
The version of Shaolin vs. Tai Chi on the Shaolin Vs DVD features English subtitles. Normally, I wouldn't mind this, but the subtitle translations in this film were the worst I've ever seen. Often times, words were misspelled and whole sentences made no sense at all. It's a miracle I could actually glean a story from the horrendous subtitles supplied in this film. The story is basically all over the place, never quite gelling until the end, when it is almost too late. The actors are quirky, even goofy at times - this does not become a serious martial arts action film until the very end.
However, if you can wait until the final scenes in the film, Shaolin vs. Tai Chi does features some of the best drunken master pole fighting I've ever seen. Of course, the subtitles call it Intoxicated Pole, but whatever. The final battle scenes are really worth watching, though I don't recommend that you buy the movie to see them. I'm sure you can find them on YouTube or some other video download website. Other than those fight scenes, this movie is really not worth the money. Without the final fight scenes, I would have considered Shaolin vs. Tai Chi a complete waste of my time...with them, it was a good waste of an hour (the movie is 84 minutes in length). Ah well, the search for more Black Belt Theatre films continues...