Inspired action film falls short, underwhelms
A comedy-action film that mixes “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Wild Wild West” may sound like a horrible idea on paper, but director Stephen Fung caught on to the gratifying formula with “Tai Chi Zero.”
Whether or not he took a few pointers from those films or from the sensei of humorous Stephen Chow martial arts films is a mystery.
What is concrete about Fung’s direction in “Tai Chi Zero” is its ability to become enjoyable, even if it’s for a short period.
“Tai Chi Zero” follows Jayden Yuan as martial arts prodigy Yang Lu Chan and his life threatening “Three Blossoms on Crown” curse. The ailment creates a small horn on the right side of the head to signify great martial arts potential, but the use of its power brings harm to the body.
Because of the nature of the curse and his homeland burning down, Lu Chan travels to Chen Village, where he hopes to learn Tai Chi, the ultimate medicine to prolong his life.
A lot of the film’s plot line focuses on the Chen village and its rebellion of the British Industrial Revolution.
Western scholar Fang Zijing, played by Eddie Peng, hopes to bring railroads through the village but was rejected after a presentation went poorly. After getting ridiculed, Zijing sought revenge on the village with the use of upgraded technology.
Chan chooses to save the village in hopes of getting an opportunity to learn Tai Chi after his request to do so was denied.
The comic book elements, video game and pop culture references and a sharp steampunk influence plays a role in having a story bearable enough to blow over with the audience.
Similar to Scott Pilgrim’s journey, each character is introduced by animated typography, and there are a couple of scenes where they really stand out.
The combat is fast paced and gripping but not like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
Even fans of Stephen Chow and Jackie Chan’s work are going to find the fight scenes elementary and a tad dull.
The sacrifice in its quality makes for a more story oriented and comically stimulating film.
The fighting does get innovated to a passable degree like the scene where Chen villagers fight off an army using watermelon, corn and other vegetables as projectiles.
“Tai Chi Zero” tries hard to be exciting with its dark humor and ill-placed pop references, but this effort also hides what the movie really is — a prequel setting up another adventure to be released later this year that leaves audiences with one-dimensional characters and a cliffhanger — two bad ingredients that make seeing the next film questionable.
Fung offers another humorous fight flick that stacks up with Chow’s masterpiece, but this huge lead into a bigger story makes “Tai Chi Zero” underwhelming.