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"Tai Chi Zero": What the Hell? It's Fun 

Wednesday, Oct 17 2012

Give some points to a genre flick whose style mash-up reflects uneasy relations between Asia and the West just as its fracas-intensive plot tries to dramatize them. Yuan Xiaochao stars as a young warrior with a biological oddity that turns him into a kung fu superstar but also might be killing him. To honor his precious gift and his mother's dying wish, he makes a pilgrimage to study at the fabled village where they do "internal martial arts," cultivating inner strength. Problem: They don't teach outsiders. Solution: Exceptions are possible for anyone able to fend off a steampunk invasion. Hong Kong action star Stephen Fung directs this loosey-goosey tai chi origin story with practiced abandon, delivering spurts of comic-booky or video-gamey animation and introducing every major player with on-screen résumé highlights. These stars include Tony Leung Ka Fai as the elusive master, Angelababy as his fetching daughter, and Eddie Peng as her spurned suitor, the British-educated villain who drives a huge "house-eating monster" of an iron train that lays its own track as it lays waste to the village. There's no denying the appeal of an outsider hero who keeps asking, sometimes on behalf of the audience, "What the hell?"

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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