Tuesday 2 October 2012

Tai Chi Zero Movie Review

No Donnie Yen, no Jackie Chan, no Jet Li!  How good can this martial arts movie be without them? Very very good that's how good! Read on to find out more.

Last night was the Singapore Gala Premiere for martial arts extravaganza Tai Chi Zero.  Maximum Extreme was one the sites selected by Omy.sg to cover the evening and what an exciting evening it turned out to be.

Events kicked off with a martial arts demonstration followed by some words from Actor / Director Stephen Fung, the inimitable Tony Leung Ka Fai and new kid on the martial arts block, Yuan Xiaochao, a real Wushu champion in the vein of Jet Li.

                                                                                Director Stephen Fung

Tony Leung Ka Fai (Left) Stephen Fung (Center) Yuan Xiaochao (Right)

I’m just going to cut to the chase on this one.  I loved this movie!  It’s probably the most fun I’ve had at the cinema since Avengers.

We follow the trials and tribulations of Yang Lu Chan AKA ‘The Freak’ (Yuan Xiaochao), a young man both gifted and cursed by a horn on his head and unique martial arts skills.  He learns that in order to survive he must travel to a distant village and learn a special form of Kung Fu.  But therein lies the problem; it is forbidden for this martial art to be taught to any outsiders.

Through his innocent and almost child like antics, he slowly grows closer to the people of the village and they soon realize they need his help to stop the evil Westerners who plan to build a rail road through their town.  Things don’t necessarily go as smoothly as you might imagine.

I loved the visual flair and momentum of this film.  Filmed in a fresh style that I can only describe as being Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World-esque, this movie really deserves to be seen on a big screen, in digital and if possible on IMAX.  Of course the style and content of this movie is not for everyone but fans of martial arts are sure to be pleased.  There is a beautiful mix of animation, martial arts subtitling (you’ll know what that means once you’ve seen the movie), fun and fantasy that should leave the audience pleased.  As a rocker, even the soundtrack hit the right notes for me.

The fighting is tight and well choreographed by none other than Sifu Sammo Hung.  He manages to make even martial arts novices like Angelababy look believable in their actions.

There is enough character development to allow us to feel for the main characters.  I have to admit it; I thought Angelababy was pretty great.  Confident yet sassy, sexy & skilled, she was a very pleasant surprise and turned in a great performance.  Tony Leung Ka Fai was of course excellent and newbie Yuan Xiaochao shows a lot of promise as a martial arts actor.  Good timing as well because we were all starting to wonder who was going to fill the void left by Jackie, Donnie and Jet.  Whether he can fill such big shoes, however, remains to be seen.

The only downer was that the movie was over before I knew it and left me wanting more.  The prospect of having to wait a year or so for the sequel left me disgruntled.  Little did I know, the sequel will actually be out in cinemas on the 25th of October!  Excellent! From Tai Chi Zero we will have Tai Chi Hero (I’m not joking – that’s what it’s called, from zero to hero gettit) in just a few weeks.  Although unusual I personally think releasing the movies in such rapid succession back-to-back is very smart movie marketing.

I really enjoyed this movie and can’t wait for the sequel.  Possibly the best martial arts movie to come out of Asia since Ip Man and Wu Xia, it’s the best time I’ve had at the cinema since the Avengers.  Check it out!

Update 27/1/2013:  I've decided to drop this movie's rating by half a point.  It's still a highly enjoyable movie but doesn't seem to fare so well on repeated viewings.  Possibly a movie best seen on the big screen.

Rating 3.5 out of 5.

Bobby Stryker

Check out the awesome trailer, don't think you'll have seen a trailer like this before!

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