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Originally published Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 3:02 PM

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'Tai Chi Zero': Martial-arts epic offers a whomping good time

A movie review of "Tai Chi Zero," a fast-paced and rollicking Chinese-language action epic about a young man who, seeking to hone his kung-fu skills, treks to a remote village wanting to learn a closely guarded style of the martial art — but the villagers want no part of him. The fight scenes are spectacular. The director's sense of humor is irreverent. The movie is fun.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

'Tai Chi Zero,' with Jayden Yuan, Angelababy, Tony Leung Ka Fai. Directed by Stephen Fung, from a screenplay by Cheng Hsiao Tse and Zhang Jialu. 94 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence. In Mandarin, with English subtitles. Pacific Place.

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The young man wants to learn kung fu. Wants to learn it to honor that dying wish of his murdered mom. Wants to learn it in the worst way.

Wish granted.

In the fast-paced, rollicking Chinese-language action epic "Tai Chi Zero," the hero (Jayden Yuan) treks to a remote village where a very special style of the martial art is a birthright of the residents. Who are jealously protective of their super-duper form of fighting. So when this interloper shows up wanting to learn their secret ways, they show him, all right. By pounding the mortal stuffings out of him.

Men, women, children: All ritually whomp on him. Get out of our town, stranger. He doesn't. No wonder they call him "idiot." The whompings continue.

The wire-work-heavy fight scenes choreographed by legendary action master Sammo Hung are a giddy delight. Delightfully giddy also is director Stephen Fung's use of computer graphics that serve as on-screen billboards in the midst of scenes, identifying cast members and settings (the words "post office" descend to identify ... you guessed it). These graphics also diagram the martial-arts moves of the cast as they perform them.

Then modernity intrudes (the era is the 1800s) in the form of a giant Jules Verne-like steam-spewing iron contraption that lays railroad tracks. Railroad's coming through ... your village!

Can kung fu (and thrown produce — Duck! They're hurling ears of corn and eggs!) defeat the modern world? Can the young fellow gain the villagers' respect by fighting clanking progress? Can he find lasting love with a beautiful kung-fu maiden (the charmingly named Angela-


Stay tuned. "Zero" is the first part of a trilogy. Part two, titled "Tai Chi Hero," is due in January. The legend is off to a promising start.

Soren Andersen:

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