Actor and musician Stephen Fung successfully combines the period kung fu film with the insane world of steam punk in this exciting film that combines some stellar veterans with a top notch cast of newer talent.
Yang Lu Chan (Jayden Yuan) is known as “The Freak” because he was born with a defect known as the “Three Blossoms of the Crown”. Having learned martial arts at a young age, he became a member of the Divine Truth Cult, led by Zhao Kan Ping (Fung Hark-On). However, when he gets hit on his mark, he becomes a raging fighter. However, his loses all of his strength just as fast and learns that he is near death.
Under the advice of Master Dong (Leung Siu-Lung), Yang decides to go to Chen Village to learn “internal martial arts” in order to alter his body’s channels. However, upon arrival, he is constantly met with resistance as the Chen Village does not allow outsiders to learn their style. However, despite Yang’s determination to learn Chen-style martial arts, it becomes the least of their problems.
Former villager Feng Zi-Jing (Eddie Peng) has been working for the governor and is the object of affection for young Chen Yu-Niang (Angelababy). When he proposes a plan to bring railways into Chen Village, he is met with resistance from the villagers. Hellbent on succeeding his mission, he relies on the aid of British consultant Claire Heathrow (Mandy Liew). When they decide to destroy the village, Yang may have to prove himself as Chen Village’s hope to stop the villains and perhaps, learn their martial arts as a reward.
One has to respect Stephen Fung as a filmmaker. He truly has a knack for making quality action comedies since his debut with 2004’s ENTER THE PHOENIX and his follow-up, 2005’s HOUSE OF FURY. For this film, Fung takes the period kung fu film and meshes it with steam punk, a genre often seen in Japanese anime. One review called this film “the lovechild of KUNG FU HUSTLE and SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD” and they couldn’t be more right. Fung was truly influenced by both films and uses them to his advantage in certain scenes of the film.
Making his feature film debut is 2008 Olympic wushu champion Jayden Yuan, who plays the hero Yang Lu Chan. He definitely has some amazing martial arts skills. Under the direction of Fung, Yuan is able to show a knack for comedy and pulls it off quite well as someone who will take on everyone and their mother to learn Chen-style martial arts. The title refers to Yuan’s character being a zero who is determined to follow his mother’s wishes to become a kung fu hero.
Model turned actress Angelababy does well in the role of Chen Yu-Niang, a master of the Chen-style who will do anything to protect her village and proceeds to constantly beat up Yang in the process. Veteran Tony Leung Ka-Fai plays an old laborer who somehow is impressed with Yang’s ability to mimic styles. Eddie Peng plays it as the villain Feng well, who will do anything to get respect from the village he was raised in, even if it means having to destroy it. There are some nice cameos from Shu Qi, director Stephen Fung, Fung Kar-On, and Xiong Xin-Xin in the film.
In charge of the action is the legendary Sammo Hung. Hung definitely trained the non-martial artists well, notably Leung and Angelababy while making good use of Jayden Yuan’s skills when necessary. Yuan’s introducing provides a nice display of the wushu skills that made him a champion with a dash of THE LAST AIRBENDER. The film leaves a cliffhanger that sets up the sequel TAI CHI HERO, which was released in October 2012.
TAI CHI ZERO is a fun hybrid of steam punk and kung fu with a great introduction for wushu champion Jayden Yuan. With this and the sequel, one can hope Yuan will continue to make films and the cast is top notch. Definitely worth seeing and a great film in Stephen Fung’s filmography.