In legendary Chen Village, everyone is a martial arts master, using their powerful Chen Style Tai Chi in all aspects of their lives. Lu Chan has arrived to train, but the villagers are forbidden to teach Chen Style to outsiders and do their best to discourage him by challenging him to a series of fights. Everyone, from strong men to young children defeat him using Tai Chi moves. But when a man from the village’s past returns with a frightening steam-powered machine and plans to build a railroad through the village at any costs, the villagers realize they may have no choice but to put their faith in Lu Chan . . . who has a secret power of his own.
Tai Chi Zero is directed by Stephen Feng. From what I can find, this is his directing debut. My guess is he was watching Kung Fu Hustle and Scott Pilgrim during breaks in filming, as it seemed as though he tried to bridge the gap between classic martial arts film and an NES cartridge video game.
A big chunk of the film left me trying to catch up to the subtitles and trying to understand what was going on. Something about Lu Chan having a horn on his head, and when it gets hit, he goes all zombie on everyone and can’t be stopped. But the more times he gets hit on the head the darker the “horn” gets, and if it gets all the way to black he dies. I don’t know, still trying to figure that out. Oh yeah, then his mom dies. Don’t worry, I’m not ruining anything, but she does die and goes up in a cloud of pixelated dust. That is odd, but funny. (Man, the more I write about what happens in this movie the more I am starting to wonder if this is the best movie ever. It’s not though, but it could be.)
After a while, I settled in and found a few moments I really enjoyed. One moment in particular is a fight sequence between the local tofu maker and our hero, Lu Chan. The fight is beautifully done, and he even throws in a POV mode in case we had forgotten the director loved Scott Pilgrim. I wonder if he loves Michael Cera as much as I do. Anyone ready for new episodes of Arrested Development yet? HEYOOO.
You know what else I enjoyed? Fruit in combat. Now I don’t want to spoil anything (see what I did there?), but there is plenty of combat-hardened fruit for everyone to enjoy.
Oh yeah, there’s a little Steampunk thrown in for good measure, which I did not see coming. Not really enough to soak my iron-clad loins, but a good amount.
Though there were enough moments like this to keep me interested throughout the film, there were several scenes where I found myself just waiting . . . for what, I don’t know. Maybe Guffman?
To sum it up, from the beginning, the entire movie was in a mad rush to establish its back story so it could move on to bigger and better things. My suspicions were confirmed when the credits rolled and we see that the sequel has, apparently, already been made. Oddly enough, I’m interested in the sequel and think it could be way better now that they’ve spent an hour and 30 minutes getting us prepared for it.
I give Tai Chi Zero 2 “Cyclon Raiders” out of 5.
by Jordan Long