|Yang Lu Chan (Jayden Yuan)|
Stephen Fung's fanciful tale of Yang Lu Chan, the real-life founder of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan, continues with the North American release of Tai Chi Hero, the second film in a trilogy. It will open today, April 26th in the following cities: NEW YORK (AMC EMPIRE 25). LOS ANGELES (AMC Atlantic Time Square), SAN FRANCISCO (AMC Metreon 16, AMC Cupertino Square 16), HONOLULU (Pearlridge West 16), TORONTO (Cineplex Odeon Yonge and Dundas Cinemas), VANCOUVER (Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas).
|Yuniang, left, and her father, Grandmaster Chen|
At the end of Tai Chi Zero (my review of the Region 1 Blu-ray release of Tai Chi Zero here), young Lu Chan (Jayden Yuan) has saved the Chen village from a monstrous railroad track-laying machine. Yuniang (Angelababy) the daughter of village Grandmaster Chen Chang Xing (Tony Leung Ka Fai), has married Lu Chan to save him from the village's policy of not allowing outsiders to learn Tai Chi. It is a marriage of convenience only, as she is Lu Chan's no-nonsense Tai Chi instructor, not his bed-mate.
|The prodigal son returns with incredible kung fu.|
This sequel is marked by two returns. One is that of of a new character, Yuniang's oldest brother, who left the village several years earlier after arguing with their father over his preference for designing and building mechanical contrivances over practicing Tai Chi. He has come back to the village with his wife, a deaf mute, and his kung fu is now of a very high level, or at it least seems that way.
|Fang Zi Jing (Eddie Peng, right) meets with a foreign railroad executive.|
The other return is that of Fang Zi Jing (Eddie Peng), Yuniang's former fiancée and the main henchmen for the foreign interests that want to build a railway through the Chen village. Having been defeated when he brought his track-laying machine in the first installment, he comes this time with several large cannons and a small army to attack the village.
|Yuniang, Lu Chan and Grandmaster Chen (foreground, left to right) face Fang's army|
Action director duties are again handled by the incomparable Sammo Hung. There is one large set piece with Grandmaster Chen, Yuniang, and Lu Chan going up against Fang's forces. But the best action choreography is saved for a fantastic one-on-one match-up near the film's end that pits Lu Chan against Li Qiankun, who serves a royal prince. Lu Chan must prove that he and Yuniang are actually from Chen village by demonstrating his Tai Chi skills in a fight that takes place in the kitchen where the prince's meal is being prepared.
Actually it sort of takes place above the kitchen, where partitions divide the food preparation area into various sections. The two combatants face off against one another on the rails at the tops of these partitions! Oh, and I should mention that Li is played by non-other than Yuen Biao! (For those who don't already know, Yuen, like Jackie Chan, was one of Sammo's junior brothers at the Peking Opera school where they trained as youths!) This is one action segment that really delivers the goods, one of the best I've seen in a long, long time.
While the resolution of the issues that have arisen in this episode comes about somewhat too easily, Tai Chi Hero is overall a worthy successor to the first film. It moves the story along nicely, throws in some new elements, and sets the stage for what should be a grand finale.
ACF Rating for Tai Chi Hero: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended.
Tai Chi Hero's official website: www.TaiChiHeroMovie.com