Tai Chi Zero is a brilliant return to the director’s chair for Stephen Fung and one of the coolest kung fu movies to come out in a long time. A mash between comic book aesthetics, Steampunk elements and kung fu action, Tai Chi Zero oozes cool from its opening frames to its abrupt closing, that just leaves one wanting more and more from the man the gave us House of Fury. Wu Shu Gold Medalist Yuan Xiaochao plays Yang, a young man that is gifted with the ability to slightly imitate other martial artists that he sees. After hearing about Chen Village, a place where every villager happens to be a kung fu master, he decides to go there to try and gain more skills and become a kung fu master. He finds himself at a loss when he learns of the only major rule upheld in the village is for them to never teach their kung fu to an outsider. As Yang does his best to try and challenge various villager to duels, a man that was raised in the village, Fang Zijing (Eddie Peng), is trying to help the village, by bringing a railroad through to help modernize it. The villagers disapprove of the rail road and places them at odds with the government, leaving Yang right in the middle of each side. Filled with some fantastic visuals, incredible fight sequences and a brilliant cast, Tai Chi Zero is an unforgettable kung fu film for the modern era.
From the immediate opening of the film, Tai Chi Zero sets the tone for being playful, fun and action packed. Aesthetically, the film takes the same approach as Scott Pilgrim VS. The World, with its video game/comic book feel, that made it visually appealing. A lot of kung fu films fall into a formulaic trap, where the story is completely routine and you’re only there for the action and nothing else. Tai Chi Zero feels like a richer story, due to the visual elements and incorporation of Steampunk. The only other films that I feel like I can compare this to, is some of the work of Stephen Chow and how he approaches kung fu films, by incorporating many different styles and genres, to make a kung fu film that is unforgettable and truly imaginative. The cast is completely star studded, with the likes of Shu Qi, Tony Leung Ka Fai and even an appearance from the director himself. Each time a character is introduced, there’s always a tongue and cheek reference to their other work, like when director Andrew Lau shows up as Yang’s father in a flashback and there’s a caption referencing the Infernal Affairs Trilogy and plenty of other instances that make the film slightly meta in its approach. This made the film all the more whimsical and entertaining and truly left me wanting more by the time it was over.
On the Blu-Ray from Well Go USA, Tai Chi Zero boasts a vibrant video and audio tracks, but next to nothing in terms of special features. On the video side, the film is presented in a AVC encoded, 1080p transfer, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The video track completely compliments the wonderful visuals and showcases some nice colors, contrast and details in the image. The audio comes in two DTS-HD 5.1 tracks, the original Mandarin and an English dub. I mainly listened to the Mandarin track for watching the film, occasionally switching to the English dub for comparisons. Both tracks are nice and robust, brimming with a lot of stuff happening in the surround channels and LFE in both. The only extras are a mini, EPK style behind the scenes and a trailer for the film. See how there’s a lot of elements happening in the film, it would have been really nice to get a solid behind the scenes, to see how the production was able to pull off such feats.
With a brutal cliffhanger and a sequel closing in, Tai Chi Hero, Tai Chi Zero is a fun filled, action packed film, brimming with a vitality and fun that will make any kung fu fan a happy camper. Highly Recommended!