Tai Chi 2 (1996) / Action-Comedy
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be PG-13 for violence and some crude humor
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Jacky Wu, Christy Chung, Sibelle Hu, Hai Yu, Mark Cheng, Billy Chow
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping, Yam-Yin Cheung
I'm not altogether sure why this is called TAI CHI "2" because by all appearances this is not a sequel, and if by some small chance it is, you certainly don't need to see the first one to understand this. The nearest guess is that it was to avoid confusion with Jet Li's Tai Chi Master (aka Twin Warriors), which was just called Tai Chi in at least one incarnation. Both were also directed by veteran director/choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping (Iron Monkey, Wing Chun), which may have necessitated the need to distinguish the films. Later video releases have changed the title to Tai Chi Boxer, which doesn't really make sense in terms of the fighting style of the film, but at least people aren't avoiding seeing it because they think they need to see the first one.
Jacky Wu plays a young self-taught kung fu expert that takes on an opium smuggling ring who have strong ties in the town he lives in. The film also revolves around his love for a young woman (Chung) engaged to be married to a well-to-do statesman and conflicts with his father, who wants him to be educated and rise above the life of fighting he grew up in in his time.
While at its core plotting, TAI CHI 2 is as derivative as a kung fu flick can get, it's still an extremely likeable and humorous adventure, reminiscent in style and tone to Jet Li's FONG SAI YUK, with an endearing cast and well-drawn characters. The fight scenes, although clearly wire-fu, are stunning, and many scenes are laugh-out-loud funny. It's hard to believe that it's Wu's first film, as he handles the role with the charm and humor of a veteran actor, and also pulls off some impressive moves of his own. If there is a down side, it would be in the poor casting of the villains, who might have good fighting ability, but lack adequate screen presence. The film also sometimes gets a little uneven between it's cutesy romance and very violent fight scenes.
But hey, in the world of martial arts cinema, the main point is to be entertained, and that's what you'll be. It's a cut above the typical film in the genre, and if you like kung fu, you should find TAI CHI 2 to be great fun.
© 2003 Vince Leo