ReviewWriter: Peter ChaiWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Ip Man” and “Once Upon A Time In China”
Back in the 90s, if you were a true martial arts film fan, there was no way that you could've missed Master Wong Fei Hong's 'shadowless' kicks and his determination in fighting against the Western invasion in China through Hong Kong legendary director Tsui Hark's long and famous "Once Upon A Time In China" franchise. Today, actor-singer turned director Stephen Fung is ready to redefine the concept of Chinese martial arts by creating a brand new franchise for the Chinese Kung Fu genre in his latest directorial feature, "Tai Chi O".
Produced by Diversion Pictures, "Tai Chi O", the first of the "Tai Chi" trilogy, sees the pitiful but motivating life story of Kung Fu genius Yang Lu Chan (Yuan Xiao Chao), who has the talent of imitating Kung Fu styles from others due to a small bump on his forehand. After running away from the war, the young man travels to Chen village in order to learn Tai Chi from Master Chen (Tony Leung Ka-Fai). Forbidden by the Chen family rules, outsiders are not allowed to learn any of their Tai Chi teachings. However, Lu Chan is not willing to give up as he challenges the residents of the whole village day by day, just to get himself nearer to Master Chen. The young man's fate soon starts to change when the village is attacked by the machines unleashed by the British party's command. The villagers have put their hopes on him to bring down the Western authorities with the knowledge of Tai Chi.
Fresh and exciting ideas are something that the audiences need to accept if they plan to watch this masterpiece produced by Fung and his buddy "Overheard" star Daniel Wu. By looking at Fung's work, you can see that the filmmaker truly understand that it is time for the Hong Kong movie scene to bring about a revolution for the Chinese martial arts film industry. They have shown guts to challenge the traditional Kung Fu storytelling style by blending in more advanced graphic effects and unspeakably stunning martial art stunts under a simple but unpredictable plot.
The casting for the action drama is unbelievable as Fung has not only gathered Hong Kong Film Award winner Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Taiwanese heartthrob Eddie Peng and Chinese sensation Angelababy, but the director also makes a brave decision to introduce new talents from a pool of world-class Chinese martial art champions to the lineup- including Yuen Xiao Chao the Olympic gold medallist for the main character Yang Lu Chan. Perhaps "Tai Chi O" is a welcoming reception for the new brand of Chinese action stars after Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Donnie Yen.
No single complain for Leung's deep portrayal of Master Chen can be thought of. The veteran's performance proves that aging could be one of the greatest tools to excel in acting. His seasoned look suits well with the master's image and most importantly, his years of valuable experiences have allowed him to show the gracefulness of a long time martial arts practitioner.
It is very interesting to see some silent film scenes in the beginning of the story. Without listening to the actors' voice during those scenes, you will be more focused on their body movements and facial expressions to find out how Lu Chan grows up under the awful series of events.
One of the most delightful scenes in "Tai Chi O" would definitely be the battle between Lu Chan and the tofu seller. The music composer should be credited for combining tango melodies with the fight between these two individuals. Moreover, that scene gives us a huge impression that watching Kung Fu-fighting is not all about action and violence.
Including a "Street Fighter" type of video game format for the visual effects in the film is not a bad idea at all. Witnessing a fighter's life expectancy with the level-bar in the movie is like looking at the life-level of Ryu or Ken in the video games after having a thrilling fight.
Overall, "Tai Chi O" has the potential of being another successful Chinese martial-arts franchise and remember to stay to your seat and be patient for the last scene, as you will get the chance to watch the trailer for the second movie "Tai Chi Hero" during the credits.Cinema Online, 30 September 2012