The first clue that Stephen Fung's "Tai Chi Zero" is not your usual kung-fu kickfest is when our hero -- Yang Lu Chan (Yuan Xiaochao) -- is introduced on a 19th century Chinese battlefield to the strains of heavy metal. And then, for several minutes that follow, it becomes a silent film complete with title cards.
This is just a taste of the cross-cultural steampunk/martial arts/comic-book Sino-Anglo mash-up that makes "Tai Chi Zero" so visually entertaining. But, unless you're a die-hard fan of Chinese
Lu Chan was born with an uncanny sense of kung fu but he wants to learn the legendary style taught in the remote village of Chen. One problem: the residents don't teach their ways to outsiders. As luck would have it though, the
Fung has assembled a star-studded cast and crew for followers of Chinese pop culture -- Xiaochao is a real-life wushu (martial-arts) champ, the action choreography is from frequent
It may not be enough for others who may be put off by the stiff acting (especially when the actors speak in stilted English) or Fung's frenetic pace. But no one can say that "Tai Chi Zero" is boring; many of the fight scenes are wildly entertaining. It will be intriguing to see what Fung does in the future in which his colorful visual sensibility can be married to something less lightweight.
If you do make it to the end, be sure to stay through the credits. Not only is there a coda but also clips from the already completed sequel.