Tai Chi Zero (2012) – By Duane L. Martin

Yang Lu Chan was born with a gift. He has a small, horn-like protrusion on his forehead, and the ability to learn and mimic various kung fu moves and styles just by watching them. When the horn is punched however, his true power is revealed. His eyes glow, and he becomes a kung fu fighting demon…but only for a short time. At the end of his power, blood shoots out of his nose, and he collapses.

When his mother is forced to care for her son any way she can, she turns to embezzling from the place she works, only to eventually get caught and beaten severely. She dies, but not before her son’s amazing aptitude for kung fu is noticed by a kung fu expert, and he agrees to take her son and raise him as his own, in addition to his own son.

Years pass, and Lu Chan grows into a strong fighter who his adopted father has taken to war against the imperial forces. He unleashes his power once more, but collapses after the battle and is taken to the camp doctor to recover. The doctor recognizes the horn, and tells him that it’s now purple. If he keeps using his power and it turns black, he’ll die. His only option is to leave the fighting and go to find the master of Tai Chi kung fu, and convince him to teach him the internal style of kung fu, because that will be the only way to save his life.

When his adoptive father and brother are killed that night in a raid by the imperial forces, Lu Chan heads out in search of Chen village, only to find that they refuse to allow anyone from the outside learn their kung fu. There’s another problem as well. A man who was adopted by the village as a boy, but never allowed to learn their kung fu because he wasn’t one of them, had left and gone to the west, where he learned engineering. Now he’s back, and he wants to build a railway through the village, and to prove himself to them once and for all that he was worthy. Unfortunately, they don’t want it, and the governor and his company are insisting upon it.

When a mysterious stranger in the village helps to lead Lu Chan toward gaining the knowledge of their kung fu, without actually teaching it to him, Lu Chan must now fight to save the village from destruction by the giant mechanical railroad track layer that their former adopted son and his grilfriend has brought to the village to force them into submission, because this is the only way he can become a hero to the people and be allowed to learn their kung fu in its entirety.

Now on to the review part…

When was the last time you saw something truly original? It’s probably been a while I’m guessing. Well the wait is over. What we have here, is a film I am truly excited, not only to have seen myself, but to be able to share with all of you. Before I go any further, I just want to say, I LOVED this movie, and you all should buy yourself a copy when it’s released from Well Go USA on January 22nd. Not only that, but the sequel, Tai Chi Hero, is coming out this month in theaters, and will likely see its home video release a few months after. Again, I’m so excited and eager to see it, I can’t even tell you.

So why is this movie so original? Well, take a visually excellent kung fu film, mix in a generous helping of great and likeable characters, combine it with some minor elements of fantasy, throw in some steampunk, and add in a bit of Scott Pilgrim-esque video game style humor and action (only comparing it to Scott Pilgrim is pretty much an insult to this film), and you have something that is so great, it defies description. The exciting thing is, Lu Feng’s true power is still to come, and will be on full display in the sequel, so it’ll be even more awesome!

I mention the Scott Pilgrim thing because the comparisons in the video game-esque parts of the film will be inevitable. Personally, I didn’t care much for Scott Pilgrim, as I found it to be boring and something that wore out its welcome quickly. This film however, takes a similar idea with the Tai Chi kung fu moves, and not only does it right, but doesn’t over do it to the point where it becomes tedious and stupid. So to all you Scott Pilgrim fans out there, I’m sorry, I just didn’t care for the movie much, but I strongly suggest you give this one a try and see how much better it can be.

Aside from the great fighting, the humor and the fun characters, there’s the steampunk element that’s really something you don’t see too much (or enough) of. Aside from the track layer destructo machine full of steam and gears and all sorts of other nifty stuff, there’s also a scene with an electricity generating system powered by a bike connected to a big generator wheel, and a steam powered car. They didn’t over do it with the steampunk elements either, but what was there was just beautiful.

That’s really the key to what makes this movie such an enjoyable experience. Everything is in balance. There’s not too much of one thing or another, and even the bad guy has some balance to him, because he starts off with good motives and actually wants to help the people of the village.

Another thing I want to mention that was a lot of fun in this film are the captions. They come up in Chinese in the film, but they’re duplicated in the subtitles. They include not just what’s being said, or labels of different things, but they tell you stuff about the characters as well. For example, the doctor he sees, in the captions for that it tells you that the guy was a kung fu movie star in the 70’s. It’s almost like watching an episode of Pop Up Video in a way, and it’s so much fun to have those bits thrown in in addition to the normal content of the movie. There’s quite a bit of that, and it’s not only fun and interesting to see, but again, it’s different and original. You just don’t see this stuff in movies, and that’s just another fun little thing that makes this film so special.

I could literally go on and on about it, but there’s no point. Just see it. See it, and love it. You’ll have a great time, and I’m betting that by the end, you’ll be wanting to see the sequel just as bad as I do.

For special features, this release contains a behind the scenes featurette, music videos and trailers. It’s another great release from Well Go USA, a company that has consistently impressed with the quality of its releases, and one that I have no doubt will continue to do so far into the future. Again, this release will become available on January 22nd, so be sure to pick yourself up a copy. You won’t be sorry.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out the its page on the Well Go USA website here, and if you’d like to get a copy for yourself, you can get the DVD or blu-ray releases from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.