Stephen Fung concludes his two-part epic that combines the period kung fu film and steam punk genres, and this finale is just as good as the first part.
Where we last left off, Yang Lu Chan (Jayden Yuan) marries Chen Yu-Niang (Angelababy) only because he was saved by her. However, while they are married, it is so he can learn Chen-style martial arts to channel his energy. His recklessness with his defect has caused him to act foolish. Yu-Niang offers to teach him but she doesn’t love him. Meanwhile, the Chen family is surprised to see that eldest son Zai-Yang (Feng Shaofeng) has returned.
However, as much as there is a reunion, former villager Fang Zi-Jing (Eddie Peng) is back and he is seething for revenge. This time, he enlists the help of East India Company official Fleming (Peter Stormare) for help. The weapons of the West has now attributed to attacks all over China. When Fang is named the new deputy governor, he intends to destroy Chen Village. Having perfected the Chen style of martial arts, Lu Chan, Yu-Niang, and Master Chen (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) now must protect the village at any cost from the invading Fang and the British troops.
This film can’t really be called a sequel as much as it is an actual continuation. Once again, director Stephen Fung meshes kung fu and steam punk really well. This time, Fung brings even more surprises with cameo appearances from some top veterans of the genre. They include Patrick Tse, who plays the Chen 10th Grandmaster whose prophecy is the reason why Lu Chan couldn’t learn Chen style in the first film; Daniel Wu (who also served as co-executive producer of both films) as the mad monk who gives the prophecy; and Yuen Biao as the prince’s servant.
Once again, Jayden Yuan shines as Lu Chan and much like the first film, his opening involves him turning into a raging lunatic when his “Three Blossoms of the Crown” is once again hit. However, as he learns to finally channel his film, in which he is seen training through most of the film, he finally loses his defect and has embraced the soft side of martial arts.
Angelababy once again does well as Chen Yu-Niang. However, she goes from being a stern master to someone who truly loves Lu Chan in the process of their training. It is clear that she is the “yin” to his “yang” as Tony Leung Ka-Fai mentions on the wedding night. Leung does well again as Master Chen while cast newcomer Feng Shaofeng does well as second son Zai-Ying, who may seem like a kung fu master, but actually harbors a dark secret.
Once again, Sammo Hung choreographs the film’s action sequences and what is interesting here is that while Yuan has only three noteworthy fight scenes while the rest of the time he is training, Leung gets to shine in his fight scenes against Fang and his men. However, the true highlight of the film is the finale, which is not a fight to the death, but a match to see if the Chen style is really worth being a superior art. It is this fight where we see the veteran Yuen Biao take on the young newcomer Jayden Yuan. It is great to see a veteran take on a newcomer under the experience of a legend like Sammo Hung because this truly was a fun-filled sequence that juxtaposes with the cooking of the Prince’s dinner. And for those who are unfamiliar with the name Yang Lu Chan, he is credited with being the founder of Tai Chi, hence the name of the film.
TAI CHI HERO is truly a worthy sequel to its previous installment. Another great meshing of kung fu and steam punk but geared more towards the former. Jayden Yuan definitely should try his hand at a modern day action as he truly earned his merit here. In addition, Stephen Fung truly should be called an auteur with his meshing of action and comedy with this and its predecessor as the stamp of being a fine director. Worth seeing for sure!