25 November 2012 | caseymoviemania
Casey's Movie Mania: TAI CHI HERO (2012)
The highly-anticipated TAI CHI ZERO -- a classic martial-art movie with a steampunk twist, was supposed to be a turning point in the well-worn genre. Instead it's a huge disappointment in all level. So here we are again -- an immediate sequel titled as TAI CHI HERO which is shot back-to-back with the first movie. The biggest question is: does this second installment improves considerably? Well, the answer is a big "NO". Even though TAI CHI HERO has lowered down its geek culture references and focusing more on character-driven drama, this disappointing sequel remains lackluster from start till the end.
Picking up where the last movie left off, we learn that Yang Luchan (Jayden Yuan) is now preparing to marry Yuniang (Angelababy). During the wedding ceremony, Yuniang's elder brother Zaiyang (Feng Shaofeng) and his wife (Nikki Hsieh) make their sudden appearance. Zaiyang doesn't particularly agrees with her decision to marry Yang Luchan just because he saves her life in the previous movie. He also reminds everyone why their Chen-style martial arts cannot be taught to outsiders like Yang Luchan. In a brief flashback scene dating way back at one hundred years ago, we learn that Chen-style martial arts was made legendary by the 10th Grandmaster (Patrick Tse, in a heavy makeup) who had many students from all over the regions. One day, a formidable Monk (Daniel Wu, also in a heavy makeup) made an appearance to the Chen village, and subsequently revealed that he has apprehended one of 10th Grandmaster's students who had ran amok in the region. The monk who had an incredible martial-art skill, warned the 10th Grandmaster never ever teaching outsiders again or else he would return and destroy the village.
Meanwhile, the badly-injured Fang Zijing (Eddie Peng) is determined for payback time and wants to hatch an evil plan with the corrupt Duke Fleming (Peter Stormare) of the East India Company, to avenge the death of his British girlfriend, Claire (Mandy Lieu). With the help of Duke Fleming, Zijing is appointed as the new deputy governor. With a large army and heavy artillery at his disposal, he strives to destroy Chen village once and for all so he can continue to make the railroad where he last left off.
At 103 minutes, TAI CHI HERO wastes too much time establishing a lot of new characters, new agenda as well as extensive backstory that doesn't really drives the movie forward. Don't get me wrong. It's good that the sequel tries hard to expand its universe but expansion alone don't mean a thing if the execution feels hollow, yet uninvolving. Not surprisingly, the story fails to build any sort of compelling tension. Even the so-called characters development in this sequel feels perfunctory.
All the returning actors here are more or less the same disappointment. Newcomer Jayden Yuan continues to be the biggest disappointment of all. His so-called "from zero to hero" character is hardly convincing at all. Again, his performance is as wooden as a piece of plank. Angelababy is basically repeating herself from the first movie without any further development to her character. Her chemistry with Jayden Yuan is close to zero, while there's hardly a conflict or struggle between their characters throughout the movie that could have been worthwhile to watch them for. Other supporting actors including Eddie Peng and Feng Shaofeng are nothing more than strict caricatures.
Where all else fails, one would expect that Fung and martial-art choreographer Sammo Hung could at least redeem this sorry sequel with rousing set pieces. Alas, the movie even fails in that level -- again. All the fighting sequences here are all style but little sense of excitement. Even the would-be classic showdown between Luchan and Master Li (Yuen Biao) in the climactic finale doesn't really generates the necessary "wow" factor.
If that's not insulting enough, TAI CHI HERO ends with another sequel (where Fung has planned to make his movie into a trilogy) which hardly generates any sense of excitement at all. With two back-to-back movies already failed to make a lasting impact, what's the use of anticipating a third movie?