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Tai ji quan (1974)

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When not studying Tai Chi under the tutelage of Old Yeung, Ku Ding works as part of a crew building roads. When he and his colleagues are cheated out of half their money by corrupt foreman ... See full summary »

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Title: Tai ji quan (1974)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Wo-fu Chen ...
Ku Ting
Szu Shih ...
Yang Chen
Hung Wei ...
Chin Ta-hsing (as Frankie Wei)
Shen Chan ...
Master Yuan
Miao Ching ...
Master Chin
Chih-Ching Yang ...
Master Yang
Kuang Yu Wang ...
Yang Tang
Tse Lin Yang ...
Teng Kai-hsi
Mei Hua Chen ...
A-Bao
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Pai-ling Chang
Shao Lun Chiang ...
Quarry laborer
Chin Kuei Chung ...
Hu Ping-lien
Ching Wen Fung
Han Chou Ho
Kang Ho
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Storyline

When not studying Tai Chi under the tutelage of Old Yeung, Ku Ding works as part of a crew building roads. When he and his colleagues are cheated out of half their money by corrupt foreman Tang Hoi Hay (acting on behalf of his boss Master Jin), Wu Bing Lien protests on behalf of the group, only to get a beating for his troubles. Ku Ding intervenes and takes the beating instead, which is in line with the teachings of Tai Chi that it is not for fighting others, even though it can be - and that tolerance is key. This is not something that even Yeung's daughter Ah Jen accepts and she thinks Ku Ding's action (or lack of action) was foolish and it doesn't help with his money problems. Due to such worries, Ku Ding's girlfriend (Ah Bao) seeks out a job as a servant in the house of Dai Sing - son of Master Jin. At the same time Dai Sing, something of an martial artist, learns of Yeung's Tai Chi and looks for a contest, and when he is rebuffed he orders his father's men to kill the old master. ... Written by bob the moo

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Wo-fu Chen killed himself before the premiere. This was his first (and last) starring role. See more »

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User Reviews

Odd film that replaces action with cruel acts and hamstrings its star with peace but no content
1 January 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

When not studying Tai Chi under the tutelage of Old Yeung, Ku Ding works as part of a crew building roads. When he and his colleagues are cheated out of half their money by corrupt foreman Tang Hoi Hay (acting on behalf of his boss Master Jin), Wu Bing Lien protests on behalf of the group, only to get a beating for his troubles. Ku Ding intervenes and takes the beating instead, which is in line with the teachings of Tai Chi that it is not for fighting others, even though it can be – and that tolerance is key. This is not something that even Yeung's daughter Ah Jen accepts and she thinks Ku Ding's action (or lack of action) was foolish and it doesn't help with his money problems. Due to such worries, Ku Ding's girlfriend (Ah Bao) seeks out a job as a servant in the house of Dai Sing – son of Master Jin. At the same time Dai Sing, something of an martial artist, learns of Yeung's Tai Chi and looks for a contest, and when he is rebuffed he orders his father's men to kill the old master. While in the mood, he also approves supervisor Tang to get rid of rabble-rouser Wu and even has energy yet to give his servant Ah Bao some attention, whether she wants it or not. All of these cruel acts put great pressure on Ku Ding to seek revenge but, as this is not in keeping with his teaching of tolerance, he is unsure even when Ah Jen demands it. Can he reconcile the principle of his Tai Chi with the nature of the cruel reality in which he lives?

The pre-title sequence informs us that this will be a film focusing on the art of Tai Chi – a style which is known to many but mostly for being practiced by older people in the park rather than being a martial art. I was not exactly thrilled by this but was interested to see how it set about showing me another side to it – the side demonstrated by the master in the opening. The earliest action scene in the film is essentially Ku Ding taking a beating and not fighting back – which is something his master then praises even if his own daughter thinks it was stupid. I have to say at this point I am agreeing with Ah Jen. The majority of the film is essentially this same scene played out in different ways because the plot is that Ku Ding takes more and more beatings but commits himself to pacifism and tolerance until he eventually goes for it and gives us a boss fight using his Tai Chi.

The nature of the "beatings" he takes vary as they involve the death of those close to him by different means, which is not a lot of fun to watch because it is all one-way traffic with limited action. It feels a little unpleasant as well, which is not helped by the tasteless rape scene, where the camera zooms in and out on parts of Ah Bao in a way that suggests it is trying to titillate. It feels wrong – to spend that much time on it but not make it repel the viewer at the same time. This lack of tone also affects the main story. Considering so much of the film is about the peaceful flow to Tai Chi, I expected it to have something to say on that particularly since so much of the film is lacking action. Instead it focuses on the action it can get (the cruel acts) and leaves any soul-searching till the very last line (at which point it doesn't make sense or have time to do anything). It is an odd film in this way because it does little with the themes but instead plays out an action story but with one side of the story not willing to take part – with no content to hold the attention and very little action to fill the gap, it feels like an awkward waiting game.

This hurts Chen Wo-fu's performance as he seems held back from doing anything other than showing bottled up anger. The villains have more fun with typically "evil laugh" turns from Frankie Wei and Yeung Chak-Lam. In the female roles I enjoyed Shih Szu as she had a bit of spirit in her character and good moves, but Chan Mei Hua gets little thanks for her performance and has that badly handled rape sequence to get through. The final fight is good but to be honest by this point I was tired of what the film was or wasn't doing and the final throwback to the struggle between peace and conflict just annoyed me by reminding me that it hadn't done this at all well. Perhaps it is worth a look but I personally found it very dull with lots of words and story that wasn't delivered well, and very little in the way of action to distract from it.


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