The Eight Diagram Forms of Tai Chi
You know what the problem is with daytime soap operas? There's not nearly enough seven-level pagoda deathmatches.
Fortunately for people like me, who are fans of both Stefano DiMera and kung fu ass-beating, Yuen Wo Ping--the guy who did fight choreography for Kill Bill, Iron Monkey, Kung Fu Hustle, and a dozen others--has rectified the situation with a little thing called The Tai Chi Master. It was brought to my attention by my friend Billy, who I don't get to see nearly as often as I'd like, due to the fact that we work diametrically opposite schedules. Every now and then, however, he'll drop by with something that's too awesome to ignore.
This time, it was The Tai Chi Master, which to my understanding originally aired on daytime television in China, but was recut for its special bootleg DVD release as a feature-length movie. The weirdest thing about it is that even while guys are using their mastery of chi to beat the hell out of each other, it still looks like a soap opera, which can be very disconcerting.
The plot is as follows: It all starts, as so many of these things do, with a deer-huntin' misunderstanding. Lord Tun and his crew are out hunting a deer, and happen to run across Chan, the Tai Chi Master. They fight, and even though Tun's kung fu is strong, Chan defeats him and Tun is forced to let him go or risk having his ass kicked in front of all of his homeys.
Cut to a few years later. Tun's been searching for Chan because he wants a rematch; Chan's the only one to ever beat him. Meanwhile, at a nearby funeral, a fight breaks out and Yang--Our Hero--shows up and meets the master of the Eight Diagram Forms, who tells him that he has potential, but that he can't train Yang right now. So Yang follows Siu Kay, a guy who's obviously a girl, and learns her family's secret Tai Chi. He also eventually finds out she's a girl when they're sparring and he makes fun of her because "your chest muscles are too soft," and they fall in love.
Tun eventually finds Chan, and sends his henchmen to deal with him. They are, of course, slapped down by his powerful Tai Chi. Eventually they get tired of getting thrown around and just threaten to burn the whole place down unless he goes with them.
Eventually, Yang hooks up with the guy from the funeral and fights him for three straight days to show his mastery of Tai Chi--including a fight under a net with a hundred dangling swords on ropes. Then he ends up fighting Tun in Chan's place and--not to ruin anything for you--totally beats him down.
But that's not all. The centerpiece of the movie comes after Chan's been captured, when Yang and Siu Kay go to seek the help of (I swear this is her name) Princess Wing Ling. Due to a series of complicated events involving yet another kung fu transvestite (a girl disguised as a man yet again), Yang ends up having to fight her six bodyguards in a Pagoda of Death.
You know how I know that was awesome? Because they introduce the master of each level with a little voice-over and text piece like a video game, and the first guy Yang fights has "kicks that can kill lions and bears."
That guy's kicks are the coolest. And according to Billy, his eyebrows are also "captivating." Anyway, Yang makes his way up the Pagoda Game of Death-style, fighting a wrestler, a drunken monk, a guy called "The Magic Pole of the South," a guy whose chi is so powerful that he has an "invincible body and fists that can shatter gold and stone," and a frigg'n ninja. Eventually he makes it up to the top level and Princess Wing Ling. She's a doll. As Billy said, "her shoulderpads are a force of nature."
It's officially the most awesome soap opera ever made.
Except maybe Passions. Maybe.