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Tai Chi Zero

Tai Chi Zero

aka 太極1從零開始 aka Tai Chi 0

2012
Written by Chang Chia-Lu and Cheng Hsiao-Tse
Directed by Stephen Fung Tak-Lun

Tai Chi Zero
Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne are back, but darker and edgier!

A festive feast of visual excess that leaves you unsatisfied and full of regret, Tai Chi Zero is that mirage in the desert that looks good, but is nothing but sand when you get up close. The fun graphics and video game inspired editing are polish over a generic and predictable plot that doesn’t even do us the favor of trying to be creative. All the enthusiasm and cool effects are wasted, and that just makes me mad!

Now, I love cool looking visuals and razzmatazz editing. But you need something beneath that that’s just as creative. When the story is essentially something that has been done to death a thousand times, often more creatively, it’s just not exciting. The cast, the look, the effects, the wasted potential.

Tai Chi Zero
Chef Emeril Lagasse?

The main hero’s arc tale is set against a conflict that is essentially the modern West vs. the traditional East. Of course, tradition and kung fu wins out over technology and guns. One of the ways to get your film easily approved by Chinese censors is to make it about how awesome China is, so a lot like this is an easy pass. Creative films use that “China rules!” setting to say other things that censors are too dull to pick up on. Instead, Tai Chi Zero has characters saying how technology is bad in scenes with video game graphics and editing. It’s almost as if there is something else being said, but there isn’t. This expectation and disappointment exposes Tai Chi Zero as nothing more than a mannequin that can’t talk or move, but sure is wearing a pretty dress in the store display window. But it has encouraged me to go find some real people in real clothes, aka good movies. The East vs. West thing is even more hilarious because I can literally walk to the high school producer Daniel Wu went to school at here in America.

Tai Chi Zero
It’s the cover of one of those cheap shot on video horror films!

The action scenes I have little complaint with. The diagrams and arrows while the characters go through their stances were neat touches, and Sammo Hung and Andy Cheng Kai-Chung know what they’re doing to make things looks cool. The video game stylizing is incorporated into the choreography, which makes many scenes look like they are straight from a fighting arcade game. When each cast member first shows up, there are character cards for each of them as well as a brief one sentence bio. Besides looking cool, the biographies are good for beginners to Hong Kong/Chinese cinema, and good for those of us who don’t keep up with wushu stars who are making their first appearance in film.

Tai Chi Zero
SURRENDER HUMANS! TODAY THE MACHINES RISE!

Tai Chi Zero‘s tale is your normal hero’s arc story. Yang Lu Chan is The Freak, born with a super rare skin tag on his forehead which means he has super kung fu powers. Which is good, because he doesn’t have super brain powers. Discovered at a young age by a master, Yang Lu Chan is trained as a warrior and becomes his greatest fighter in the battles that come. But a chance encounter with Master Dong clues Yang Lu Chan in that his kung fu skills will prematurely kill him unless he learns negative kung fu, which is only taught in Chen Village, and then not to outsiders.

Yang Lu Chan/The Freak (Jayden Yuan Xiao-Chao) – A fictionalized version of real a tai chi master and teacher, Yuan Xiao-Chao is depicted as a martial arts prodigy with a growth on his forehead – the three crown blossoms – that gives him supernatural powers when smacked. It also will kill him if he doesn’t learn the style of kung fu taught in Chen Village. So he goes to learn. Is not very bright.
Chen Yu Niang (AngelaBaby) – Daughter of Master Chen, leader of the Chen School. She and her boyfriend Fang Zijing are trying to persuade Chen Village to accept the rail station that is planned to be built there. Until Fang Zijing goes bad and rejects her, then she tries to save her home from his plans.
The Old Labourer/Chen Chang Xing (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) – Gee, could this mysterious Yoda character secretly be Master Chen Chang Xing? Duh Doy! Of course, he’s just using Yang Lu Chan to save his village, but eventually is less manipulatively evil about it when the crap hits the fan. Is also a fictionalized version of a real person.
Fang Zijing (Eddie Peng Yu-Yan) – Chinese citizen educated overseas in England, who tries to bring modern technology back to the scoffing villagers. Is never accepted in Chen village and eventually rejects it in favor of not looking like a failure in front of the Emperor. Brings the giant steam machine to forcibly build the rails and reconnects with his overseas lover Claire Heathrow.
Claire Heathrow (Mandy Lieu) – Fang Zijing’s sweetheart from England who has come over as part of the East India company to lay tracks, and also to come with Fang.
Tai Chi Zero
I hate it when my steam-powered superweapon is infested with lady ninjas!t

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly   Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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