The Master

| February 22, 2015

You know those old 70s king fu movies where everything’s badly dubbed in English and melodramatic and they have a bunch of exaggerated sound effects for every kick, chop, and swing?  Those are fun, right?  Hilarious, but with some halfway decent fight choreography?  And the parodies practically write themselves.  The Master feels like a parody of one of these old kung fu movies except it’s obvious that it’s not meant to be funny, which is just sad.  However, all the trademark parody elements are here.  Exaggerated special effects, shotty camera work, and of course bad line dubbing.  What’s funny is the movie is Chinese and dubbed in Chinese, which you would think would make it easier to sync everything up, but it looks like the characters are being dubbed by different actors than who played them in the movie.  It’s all very Kafkaesque.

The one thing The Master has going for it is its clean fight choreography, which maybe just isn’t that hard to do, but it looked good to me.  Even the fight scenes were not without their comic nature though.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when the two masters of the two martial arts schools got into a fight.  Our hero bested the opposing school master and suggested their fight was based on a mistake and that they should talk and figure it out.  The other master exclaimed that he doesn’t talk about things with anyone but he’ll look into the matter himself.  What?  In another fight, between a group protesting the presence of an opium den and the guards outside the den itself, I had to laugh when as the fight began the camera started dancing around like it was on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Much of the film feels like propaganda against the opium scurge in China, and the use of violence over reason.  The latter is ironic given there are more fight scenes than non-fighting scenes, but at least the movie attempts to have a purpose.  In the end, it seems that the events of the movie are inspired by a true story, with the philosophies of the different schools spreading across the world.  The problem is that if you’re not already familiar with Chinese history or the specific ideas the end alludes to, then you’re not going to come out the other side any more knowledgeable.  The end credits throw a lot of words around and try to make the spreading of these philosophies seem really important and impressive, but without any context it’s just meaningless.

Available on DVD from Lionsgate on February 24.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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