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Review: Kung fu prodigy goes to town in ‘Tai Chi Zero’

Director Stephen Fung’s stylistic hodgepodge “Tai Chi Zero” follows a battle-hardened, impulsive kung fu prodigy who seeks training in a secretive, energy-conserving martial arts style practiced in peaceful Chen Village.

He becomes an unwitting warrior in a battle between the town and a Western-influenced prodigal son whose giant mechanical claw-monster threatens to wipe out the residents so a railroad can be built.

“Tai Chi Zero” is often more distracting than diverting with its everything-goes aesthetic — there are strains of steampunk, manga and silent film comedy, with video-game touches.

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But occasionally a childlike enthusiasm for kung fu heroism pokes through, usually tied to something recognizably, charmingly human in legendary choreographer Sammo Hung’s work.

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“Tai Chi Zero.” MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence and martial arts action throughout; in Mandarin with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. At selected theaters.


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