Well Go USA // 2012 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 22nd, 2013
Lu Chan is a special sort of martial artist. Born with an odd growth on his head, he has the innate ability to open up a can of Tai Chi whoop-ass when compelled. And by "compelled" I mean "he flips out when someone smacks that odd growth on his head."
Chan's travels take him to the famous Chen Village, a rural enclave renowned for its heavily-guarded brand of Tai Chi. No outsiders are allowed to learn of its power, leaving Lu Chan out in the cold. But things take a turn when an ambitious railroad developer shows up at the edge of Chen Village in a gigantic steampunk mobile fortress, threatening to lay down some track, whether the Chen hicks like it or not.
Chan, eager to prove his mettle volunteers to sabotage the machine, but because he's sort of an idiot, puts things into motion that will lead to a detachment of heavily-armed railroad flunkies perched at the outskirts of town read to bring holy hell down upon them. Can he finally earn the cred needed to unleash his Tai Chi Zero?
Your guess is as good as mine. I had subtitles and a dubbed English track to work with and I still came out of Tai Chi Zero knowing less than I went in. At first blush, it seems like we're dealing with a standard-issue "becoming-the-superhero" experience. The first scene offers a preview of Lu Chan's abilities. We see him enveloped in a huge battle, his Super Boil is whacked, his power is triggered, his eyes go white, and...it's time for an origin story!
Which churns on and on, eventually brining our hero to the Chen village and the highlight of the film: his encounter with the dastardly railroad maven. This is where Tai Chi Zero starts to build momentum. We get a sense of where it's all leading, namely, a bad-ass fight between Lu Chan, his Tai Chi Zero power, and a giant robot.
Alas, we are deprived of that visual, which is where my disappointments crown. We never get any kind of satisfying payoff with the Lu Chan story, missing out on a show-stopper of a finale with a fully-realized, fully-powered protagonists dropping all manner of mayhem on fools. Why? Because this movie ends on a cliffhanger. It's like The Matrix Reloaded, except I had no idea I was dealing with a franchise.
That alone makes Tai Chi Zero difficult to recommend. You're not getting a complete viewing experience. However, if you find yourself cornered and forced to watch this disc, there are pluses! For one, the visual style is bonkers. Artistically, the feel is straight out of a comic book, with gonzo art employed throughout. The result is a tongue-in-cheek hyperactive feel that's pretty cool. The design, joined by fun action scenes (when they drop), are almost enough to compensate for the disappointing pace and finale. Almost.
Now for some unabashed praise: Tai Chi Zero is one of the best-looking Blu-rays I've seen in a while. The 2.35:1/1080p transfer snags a perfect score, pumping out a flawless serving of HD picture quality. The stylized look is fantastic, awash in clarity and popping colors. Backing up the visual fidelity is an active DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Two extras of note: a set of music videos and a making-of featurette.
Disappointing movie, but the best-looking disappointment I've seen in
Review content copyright © 2013 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go USA
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Mandarin)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Music Videos