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Tai-Pan is a 1986 film directed by Daryl Duke, loosely based on James Clavell's 1966 novel of the same name. While many of the same characters and settings appear, Clavell's masterful epic story was muddled and drowned in this Dino De Laurentiis cinematic version. Filmed under communist Chinese censorship, much of Clavell's story was considered too offensive to be filmed as written and considerable changes were made. The De Laurentiis Entertainment Group handled the production and were actively seen battling the Chinese Government and Labor boards over the film during shooting. It was this sort of government intervention that the character of Dirk Struan was so ardently against. The results fared poorly at the box office and in critical reviews. Director Daryl Duke believed that a mini-series à la Shōgun would have been a far superior means of covering the complexity of Clavell's novel.

Plot summary

The film begins following the Britishmarker victory of the first Opium War and the seizure of Hong Kongmarker. Although the island is largely uninhabited and the terrain unfriendly, it has a large port that both the British government and various trading companies believe will be useful for the import of merchandise to be traded on mainland Chinamarker, a highly lucrative market.

Although the film features many characters, it is arguably Dirk Struan and Tyler Brock, former shipmates and the owners of two massive (fictional) trading companies who are the main focal points of the story. Their rocky and often abusive relationship as seamen initiated an intense amount of competitive tension. Throughout, both men seek to destroy each other in matters of business and personal affairs. Struan is referred to as Tai-Pan (which author Clavell translates as "Supreme Leader," although this is not the accepted translation of the term) indicating his position as head of the largest and most profitable of all the trading companies operating in Asia. Brock, owner of the second largest of the trading companies, constantly vies to destroy Struan's company and reputation in an attempt to both exact revenge on Struan and become the new "Tai-Pan" of Chinesemarker trade.

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