of the martial arts entails more than just fighting. It encompasses a spiritually balanced approach
to life. Yang Lu Chan missed those
lessons. An instinctive warrior and
physical mimic, he was born with a small horn on his head that turns him into a
freakish berserker when given a good smack.
Unfortunately, his rampages have substantially drained his life
force. His only hope to restore his
inner equilibrium lies in learning the Chen Style Tai Chi practiced in its
namesake village. However, they do not cotton
much to strangers in Stephen Fung’s wildly eccentric beatdown Tai Chi Zero (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
horned Yang was a child only a mother could love. He has only ever been good at one thing, but
his skills were evident enough to catch the eye of a warlord-cult leader. Yang fights like mad for his master, but it
takes a toll. After waking up woozy in
the makeshift infirmary once again, the doctor advises him to make haste for
Chen Village before his horn turns black.
Yet, once Yang arrives, he is informed in no uncertain terms Chen
secrets can never be revealed to outsiders.
Of course, the big lug will not take no for an answer, earning him a
series of pummelings at the hands of villagers, such as the mysterious Master
Chen’s daughter, Yu-niang, who definitely catches Yang’s eye while pasting him
silly. He even gets man-handled by a
real life five year old prodigy, who could single-handedly humble the
Expendables and their proposed spin-offs.
do we know she is an actual prodigy?
Because the film identifies each significant cast member with a sample
of their credits whenever their characters first appear on-screen. It might sound distracting, but there is so
much madness going on, it is really just another thing to try to process. Incorporating highly stylized graphics into some
of the wildest fight scenes you could ever hope to see (choreographed by action
director Master Sammo Hung), Zero
does not lack for energy. It even veers
into steampunk territory when Yang and the citizens of Chen combine forces to
fight the Troy, the Wild Wild West-esque
armored steam engine commanded by Yu-niang’s vengeful ex, Fang Zijing, who
lived in Chen for years, but was never allowed to learn their secrets either.
actress-model Angelababy is already a huge star throughout Asia, her enormously
charismatic performance as Yu-niang should earn her a considerable cult
following in the West. She is nothing
less than dynamite throwing Yang about like a rag doll. It is
hard to think of another action star who can be so convincingly cute, tough,
and vulnerable, all at the same time.
“the Freak,” Changquan Wushu champion Jayden Yuan has an endearing sad sack
presence and is always credible in the action scenes. Tony Leung Ka Fai (a.k.a. “Big Tony” Leung)
is clearly enjoying every moment of scenery chewing as the idiosyncratic Master
Chen. Though only appearing briefly as
Yang’s mother, Shu Qi is still ethereally striking and always worth watching. The only weak link is Eddie Peng, whose Fang
Zijing is a rather underwhelming villain.
Oh, but wait. Ending with what is
essentially a trailer for the sequel, Zero
promises heavier heavies to come.
is so amped up and adrenaline charged, actor-turned-director
Fung deserves major credit for maintaining his narrative clarity amid all the commotion. Indeed, he has a talent for stage-managing
insanity. Visually distinctive and loads
of meathead fun, Tai Chi Zero is
highly recommended for genre fans when it opens this Friday (10/19) in New York
at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Angelababy, Martial arts cinema, Sammo Hung, Shu Qi, Tony Leung Ka Fai