Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cool Photos 019

luminating The Night

Quickie Review: TAI CHI HERO (2012)

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.

Having just seen and reviewed TAI CHI ZERO, I was psyched and ready to pop my theatrical screener of TAI CHI HERO (obtained from the generous folks at Well Go USA) into my Blu-ray player. When we left our main characters, Lu Chan was lying helpless in a semi-coma after aiding in the defeat of the misguided Fang Zi Jing.

Unable to defend himself in any sense, its up to Master Chen and his daughter Yu Niang to plead on Lu Chan's behalf, as he stands accused of stealing Chen-style kung-fu. Nothing seems to change the mind of the village council who prepare to make it impossible for Yang to practice kung-fu ever again.... by severing his tendons with a fig bucking sword!

Luckily Yu Niang steps in and declares that she will marry the lovably moronic Lu Chan; by making him family, he will have technically broken no sacred laws! The two are quickly wed, only to have their wedding crashed by Zai Yang, Yi Niang's older brother, and his mute Japanese wife. Zai Yang's arrival kicks off yet another plot to  peacefully clear out Chen Village by acting on the superstitious beliefs of the villagers. Naturally the plan doesn't quite work out, leading to another invasion by the misguided Fang Zi Jing, who shows up with an army and a half dozen cannons.

Will the fully trained Lu Chan (now seemingly healed of his "Three Blossoms of the Crown" and no longer an idiot), his wife Yu Niang, and his father-in-law, Grand Master Chen, be able to foil another violent attack on the peace-loving village? Will Western military technology and training trump ancient martial arts wisdom? Will aid come from an unexpected source? Or will Fang finally triumph and have his revenge against the people he blames for the death of his lover? Well.... all I can tell you is that this movie is set up for  yet another sequel, and I greatly welcome it!

TAI CHI HERO is a much tonally different movie from the first one; it's definitely a more serious film. In the first movie, Lu Chan was none too bright and constantly getting his butt kicked. You really wanted him to succeed, but at the same time you couldn't help but enjoy his failures. In this film, he's attained his quest for the most part, healed himself, and is now really.... dull. He's totally calm, cool, collected, serene, and not in danger of randomly going into "demon mode" or dying from his affliction. Now he's just a two-dimensional good guy that makes me want to yawn.

Luckily the wayward villains of this film keep things going. Stephen Fung (Fang Zi Yang) yet again turns in a good performance as Fang Zi Jing. With his career decimated, his honor in question, and the women he loved now dead, Fang is in a pretty dark place in his life and it shows. Using the knowledge that Lu Chan was once a part of the Divine Truth Cult (a rebel sect that fought against the imperial troops of China), Fang manages to gather himself an army and some big guns. He then marches on Chen Village in force to "arrest" Lu Chan and those that aided and abetted him in the destruction of TROY NO.1, which caused the accidental death of his lover.

Then there's Zai Yang, who is only trying to scare off the locals with an ancient prophecy, partially because he has a chip on his shoulder (daddy issues), but mainly because he wants to find a peaceable solution to getting a railroad through the village. He provides us with a character we can relate to, as he left Chen Village in his youth to make his way in the world. Rather than stay home and learn martial arts (which he was never very good at), he leaves to be his own man and become an inventor. This didn't sit well with his father, Grand Master Chen, and it provides for a bit of tension whenever the two of them share the screen.

All in all, I enjoyed TAI CHI HERO, but didn't like it as much as the previous film. It's got a few cool twists, great action sequences, and has a very talented cast. Though the hero has sadly become rather boring, its the other characters in the film that keep things interesting and moving forward. And once the smoke clears during the climactic struggle at the gates of Chen Village during the final act, the film teases us with a really cool setup for the intended third part of this Tai Chi trilogy! (Spoiler: As the film fades to black, we get a very brief look at a STEAMPUNK-THEMED SKULL FORTRESS!)

Though it lacks the fun and energy of the first film, TAI CHI HERO is still a really solid martial arts flick that delivers the goods, and promises us some big things in the next installment. It's definitely worth a look and worthy of:

TAI CHI HERO had a brief theatrical engagement this past weekend in select cities (anyone out there lucky enough to see it?), and is heading to DVD and Blu-ray on July 2nd!


Animated Images 228