Tai Chi Zero is an amazing Kung Fu movie that combines several styles into one brilliantly told movie. It leaves you wanting more. The best part is that… there is more! This is only part one of the story.
The movie is about Yang, a child born into poverty with a horn on his head signifying that he has special powers. Through simple observation, he’s able to learn martial arts quickly. He’s taken in by a military man who teaches him to fight for the army. Although he’s quite successful and a dangerous weapon, an old man tells him that if he keeps fighting like this that he’ll die soon. Yang is told to go to the Chen Village to learn a special form of Tai Chi from Master Chen that will save his life and also make him a better fighter.
When Yang gets to the village, he’s told over and over that no outsiders are allowed to be taught Tai Chi and he’s subsequently beaten up by just about everyone who sees him after he’s banished from the village. But Chen Village has more to worry about than just this one outsider. Fang, who was adopted and raised in Chen Village (because he’s an outsider), has a government job and wishes to bring commercial prosperity to the village, so he arranges for a railroad to be built that will go right through the village. Everyone hates the idea of bringing western technology to their town. Yunlang, his girlfriend and daughter of Master Chen, is supportive of Fang but becomes an outlet for his anger as their relationship becomes increasingly strained.
We later learn that Fang is actually with another woman that is a westernized government enforcer. Deciding to side with her and against the village he grew up in, he proceeds with plans to annihilate the village and build the railroad. Yang decides to take down the monster of a machine that shows up and hangs over the village ominously for a week. Yunlang has the same idea. Their mission will determine the future of everyone in the village as well as the ones trying to tear it down.
The combination of styles and great acting are what make this movie so great. I don’t give a movie an A unless I’m willing to own it and, I can tell you right now, I’m eagerly anticipating adding Tai Chi Zero to my DVD collection. The different styles came at you quickly at the beginning. It starts with a battle during a war, reminiscent of 300 with brutal violence punctuated by the fast fighting style of Yang. His backstory is told like a silent film. His attempts to learn Tai Chi from the villagers is told in a whimsical way, comedically which matches the Tai Chi style of fighting: defensive and simple, but unbeatable using any other style of fighting. The attempts to take down the machine have the feel of a heist movie to it. All the while two love stories are going on.
The only knock on this film is that the two main stories aren’t intertwined very well throughout the heart of the story. One or the other appears to be completely ignored during sections of the movie until they combine at the end. But that’s really nitpicking. They’re both entertaining.
My favorite part of the movie has to be the performance of Angelababy (that’s her stage name. Her actual name is Angela Yeung Wing, but nobody calls her that.) as Yunlang. Her demeanor and character are matched perfectly by her fighting style, elegant and simple but deadly as well. As soon as she appears on screen, the movie becomes hers. We fall in love with her, we root for her, and we love watching her fight her battles against the army and, at times, against her own family.
One of the reasons that a simple-looking fighting style like Tai Chi is so entertaining, moreso than the kung fu at the beginning of the movie, is the way it is diagramed by on screen graphics throughout the film. Every move has a name and a scientific breakdown that makes you feel like you’re watching Sports Science: The Movie.
But if I gush any more about this movie, I’m going to spoil some really good and funny parts. So be sure that you go see this movie when it premieres on October 19th. We here at Playmaker Magazine are already looking forward to the sequel.