Hands” style kung fu is an important Chen family tradition. For complicated reasons, Chen village is
forbidden to teach their kung fu to outsiders.
While they do not break this rule, they bend it considerably in Stephen
Fung’s Tai Chi Hero (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
Lu Chan, “the Freak,” sought to learn Chen-style kung fu to balance his karma
and counteract the mutant berserker horn on his temple sapping his vital
energy. Of course, everyone said no, but
the earnest plodder kept trying.
However, when Yang nearly dies defending Chen village from invaders, the
Master’s daughter, Chen Yu Niang, takes pity on Yang, marrying him into the clan.
it is not much of a marriage, but he sure takes to Master Chen’s instructions. Yang should most likely live and thrive, but
the future of Chen village is soon threatened again. Teaming up with a rogue British officer and
the Chinese Imperial army, Yu Niang’s ex Fang Zijing (a Chen village outsider himself)
means to capture Master Chen and his daughter and son-in-law. They are willing to give themselves up for
the sake of the village, but not without a fight, which is spectacular.
his follow-up to Tai Chi Zero, Fung
doubles down on the steampunk trappings, introducing Master Chen’s prodigal son
Zai, who never properly paid his kung fu dues, but has these flying machine inventions,
a la Da Vinci’s Demons. While Hero
lacks the breakneck lunacy of Zero,
it is surprisingly warm and endearing.
This is the family values installment of the franchise, featuring
reconcilements between fathers and sons and wives and husbands—and it all works
somehow. Of course, there is also the
massive showdown with the Imperial Army.
Yuan comes into his own as the innocent Yang this time around, nicely
portraying the maturation of the Freak’s character and his kung fu. Angelababy does
not quite have as much screen time in Hero,
which is a pity considering how charismatic she is as Yu Niang. Still, she has some dynamic action sequences
in the big battle and should become a truly international superstar on the
basis of her work in the franchise.
Tony Leung Ka Fai keeps doing his Zen thing as Master Chen and he’s as cool as
ever. Somewhat bizarrely though, as Duke
Fleming, Swedish actor Peter Stormare (who has been reasonable comprehensible in
English language features like Fargo
and The Big Lebowski) seems to be
channeling the sort of weird, affected sounding white-devil heavies of kung fu
Chi Hero is nearly as much outrageous
fun as Zero, but it has more
heart. With the final film of the
trilogy in the pipeline, Fung’s Tai Chi series
should become a fan favorite.
Enthusiastically recommended for martial arts fans, Tai Chi Hero opens this Friday (4/26) in New York at the AMC
Labels: Angelababy, Martial arts cinema, Tai Chi Trilogy, Tony Leung Ka Fai