Film Review: Tai Chi 0
Director: Stephen Fung
Writer: Kuo-fu Chen
Stars: Yuan Xiaochao, Angelababy, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Eddie Peng, Daniel Wu
Yan Lu Chan, a martial arts prodigy, travels to Chen village to learn their form of Tai Chi to heal his dying body only to find that he is unwelcomed as an outsider. It is only when another outsider looking to plow through their village building a railroad that he becomes their hope in saving the village.
Tai Chi 0 is a film that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time since the release of its initial trailer late last year. It really came off as an over-the-top action/martial arts film with elements of steampunk laced throughout, which screamed that it would be something up my alley. In that sense, I was hoping for a fun time in the same vein as Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer. Would I get that with Tai Chi 0?
To call Tai Chi 0 an unusual film is an understatement. It’s quite the stylistic piece of filming, reminiscent of 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World from Edgar Wright. Like Scott Pilgrim, the film incorporates elements of video games into its visual style, from mapping out the village with labels such as “market” and “town square” to iconic vs. symbols in between characters prior to fights. Throughout the film we’re treated to all these visual treats that add a pretty unique visual experience. The film also parodies early black & white silent films with its flashback origin story of the main character Yang Lu Chan, which made for a fun little segment of the film.
In that sense, you’d figure Tai Chi 0 would be as enjoyable for me as Scott Pilgrim since I loved that film very much. However, there are three major reasons why Tai Chi 0 never really reaches that level of entertainment. First and foremost, the film’s comedy didn’t always hit its mark. A lot of the humor I found to be hit-or-miss and I’m not entirely sure how to attribute the shortcomings. At points the jokes and gags were great, while at other points they weren’t done well or the punchline just never connected. With that said, there was an imbalance in the delivery of the film’s humor.
Secondly, the biggest short fall of this movie was the two stories that it tried to meld into one but never truly succeeded until the third act which didn’t really get to take off — and that is something I’ll get into in a bit. The first story the movie is about is Yang Lu Chan’s quest to learn Tai Chi from the Chen Village, while the second story is of the Chen Village facing adversity in the face of modernization when an outsider looks to build a railroad through the village. Because of this, the film goes back and forth between the two storylines, trying to stitch them together for the big climax of the film, and in the process the it would up feeling all over the place. As an audience member, I wasn’t too sure where the focus was on Tai Chi 0 and so I never found myself fully invested into either storyline and was never truly engaged into the movie. And that really is a shame since both stories were both interesting on their own.
Lastly, and this is something I alluded to earlier, was the third act of the film. Now by this point in the film both storylines merge with Yang Lu Chan stepping up to defend the village from the oncoming force of modernization in the form of a railroad. The problem that arose is that though they merge at this point, both stories didn’t end. The climax in the third act actually serves as nothing more than precursor to future events to come as the film ends on a cliffhanger. When I watched this film in theaters, the ending credits literally ended with a trailer for the film’s sequel, Tai Chi Hero. That essentially says that the film is an unfinished product and left me feeling a bit cheated even though the sequel is set to be released in China in a couple of months.
Those three points aside, there is still a lot to like about Tai Chi 0. The cast and characters of the film were all pretty likable and had their own motivations in the movie. The actors assembled for this movie were all pretty good in their roles and all of them delivered on the marital arts angle of the film. The action set pieces all had a unique flavor to them and they are what carry the film when the humor doesn’t hit its mark or when you lose focus on the story. Overall, I still think that despite its faults, Tai Chi 0 is an interesting film to check out.
GO Rating: 2.5/5