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The Master (traditional Chinese: 龍行天下) is a Hong Kong martial arts action film starring Jet Li and Yuen Wah. It was directed by Tsui Hark and written by Lam Kei To, Lau Tai Muk and Tsui Hark. The project was released in Hong Kong in 1989, but it was not released in the West until after the success of Once Upon a Time in China in 1992.


The story begins in Los Angelesmarker, with a fight between Uncle Tak (Yuen Wah) and Johnny (Jerry Trimble), destroying Tak's store in the process. Tak loses and tries to escape, but Anna (Anne Rickets) miraculously comes to save him.

Jet (Jet Li) arrives by bus. He chases three friends through the streets while they are in a car. Later on the three friends catch up with Jet after he has retrieved his belongings and they walk through the city together. They take Jet to their home but they meet with a dangerous gang. Jet steps in and defends the buddies, but their home is set on fire.

Meanwhile, Johnny and his gang are closing down kung fu schools and making a name for themselves. Jet meets May (Crystal Kwok), and also meets Johnny in a carpark, quickly learning what Johnny's goal is. Unfortunately, Anna and Jet's friends get beaten up, so Jet trains his friends to defend themselves.

Jet and his friends go to Tak's store and prepares to deal with Johnny's gang. The three friends put their newly found skills into practice whilst Jet fights the gang. Jet and Johnny fight outside the store until the police step in.

Jet and Tak have a final strain on their relationship. Downbeat, Jet decides to take a bus to the airport, intending on returning to Hong Kong. On his way, he is attacked by a dreadlocked man armed with a shotgun out. The man fires, killing the bus driver, as May follows the bus with her car. In the meantime, Tak and the three friends make their way to a rooftop for a final duel with Johnny's gang.

After the bus incident, Jet and May go to Tak's store to find a note and a will. They quickly make their way to the rooftop, and Jet makes a surprise attack on Johnny's gang. He again fights with Johnny, while Tak and his friends save Anna from danger.

During the fight, Jet and Johnny drop down, smashing a gas pipe. Just as Jet thinks the fight is over, Johnny kicks a switch that, causing them to move to the building edge. Jet grabs a rope and just as he is about to fall to his death, Tak, Anna, May and his three friends save him as the rope breaks.


US Version

Miramax's North American version of The Master, which was distributed on home video and DVD, was dubbed in English, and the dubbing often strayed heavily from the original dialogue.Four minutes of cuts were made, including:

  • The opening scene, in which Anna fights a gymnastics student.
  • A scene of Anna being banned from gymnastics school.
  • A scene of Jet walking through Los Angeles is cut slightly. Also, acoustic guitar music replaces the original, more somber score, changing the intentions of the scene significantly.
  • A scene in which Jet, after the clinic is raided, finds Anna beaten up.


Upon initial release, The Master was not particularly successful. In his audio commentary for the Hong Kong Legends DVD release, Bey Logan gives possible explanations why, citing characters' ridiculous behaviour and contrived situations. He explains that the characters' motivations are unclear - there is no clear reason why Johnny and his gang repeatedly go to Uncle Tak's store to intimidate him, and close down other kung fu schools.

Despite the flawed plot, the film did give signs of what was to come from Jet Li's appearances in films with modern settings. Li's actions style in The Master was an early example of what was to come in his Hollywood Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave.

Box office

The Master earned a weak HK $8,096,542 in Hong Kong.



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