Tai Chi Zero (2012)
Review by Jude Felton
The fact that I have said it before does not mean that I won’t say it again, and no doubt again in the future; Well Go USA are the company right now for Asian cinema. Even if the odd duffer slips through the cracks, you can rest assured that it will be followed by two or three crackers. The fact that they seem to be releasing a new Blu-ray every other week is just an added bonus!
This brings me to their latest release, Tai Chi Zero (or Tai Chi 0), which is directed by Stephen Fung. I should preface this review by stating that the film is the first in a pair of movies, with Tai Chi Hero following soon. So, it’s kind of like the Kill Bill flicks, where you won’t get the full story until you have seen the second movie. This means that you won’t get a conclusive ending once the credits roll for Tai Chi Zero, but you will get a preview of the second film.
Forget about the fact that there’s a second film for a moment, and let’s dig into this madcap 90 minutes. Opening with a rather cool battle scene, we meet up with Lu Chan, a young warrior that has been raised to fight for his master. He has the added bonus, or curse, of having a bezerker button on his head, that once hit turns him into an even deadlier foe. However, this is taking its toll on him.
A visit to the doctor confirms this, and it is suggested that he travels out to a small village in order to learn there method of internal Kung Fu, or Tai Chi if you prefer. Why not? Beats dying, right? Of course it does, and this would be great if the villagers allowed outsiders to be trained in their arts.
So, without giving away too much more, the film focuses on Lu Chan’s time in the village, a time which is disrupted when Fang Zijing turns up in a giant machine wanting to build a railroad through the village.
What you have, in basic terms, is the zero or Freak as he is known, Lu Chan trying to gain this knowledge whilst at the same time helping the villagers. It’s a fairly simple plot, but it’s the execution of this plot where the movie shines. Fung has blended old-style classic Kung Fu movie styling’s, which are freaking great, alongside Steampunk aesthetics and other cool additions. There’s a ton of cameos in the film too, such as Shu Qi and Andy Lau, but don’t worry about having to notice them, as they get a little introduction on screen via subtitles. There is honestly a ton of them, but there are also loads of little visual quirks and effects that add to the overall effect of this movie.
Where I felt the film let me down slightly was the fact that it starts with a bang, and doesn’t let up for the first 15 minutes or so, then the opening credits surprisingly kick in, we get a bit more action and then it drops in pace to allow for more detailed plot and character interaction. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it this really is an action film and could have done with a little tweaking in the pacing department. Another problem I had is that the very reason Lu Chan goes to the village is seemingly forgotten about; the nubbin on his head. Whether this is something that is addressed in the second film remains to be seen, although I imagine it will be.
All that being said, Tai Chi Zero is an absolutely gorgeous film to look at, and it looks stunning on this Blu-ray. Mind you, I would expect nothing less as Well Go’s Blu always look wonderful; I’ve yet to see a poor transfer on one of their Asian flicks, and this one definitely delivers.
Overall, Tai Chi Zero is a good film; it’s very entertaining and mixes the old with the new very well. This mixture of visual styles may be off-putting to some, but for me it was a refreshing change, plus you get fight scenes that kick ass, it looks great and even when it slows down it is still good fun. I just hope I don’t have to wait too long for Tai Chi Hero, so I can see how the story ends.
Tai Chi Zero is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Well Go USA on January 22nd.