China at the end of the 19th century: Tai Chi master Yeung retires and goes into seclusion with his family. Ten years later Yeung's wayward son, Jacky (Jacky Wu), takes an impromptu break from his studies and causes a commotion at the Dragon King festivities, attracting the attention of the beautiful, Westernised Rose (Christy Chung). Enchanted by her beauty, Jacky resolves to bring Smith (Darren Shahlavi) and his fellow opium smugglers to justice...

Conceived as a follow up to the Jet Li/Michelle Yeoh vehicle, Tai Chi Master, the film is an entertaining enough piece that never quite matches up to its predecessor. Unsurprisingly, it is at its best in the action scenes and less effective elsewhere.

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Some of the supporting cast drop in and out of the action without explanation, while others suffer from near pantomime-level characterisations. The relationship between Jacky and his mother is, uh, weird. Not quite as incestuous as, say, the one in Zombie 3: Nights of Terror, but still enough to make you wonder what the filmmakers were thinking, or whether wires got crossed in translation.

But the fight scenes, including an aerial battle among the bamboo trees and the final showdown in a prop-filled warehouse, are impressive for the most part and provide an ample showcase for action director Yuen Woo-ping's celebrated ability to get the best from his performers.

Though obvious at times, the wire work doesn't detract too much. Indeed, the relatively low tech nature of the action, relying as it does on genuinely skilled performers and technicians, rather than computer trickery, may appeal more to the genre audience than Woo-ping's more recent work on The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

By no means essential viewing, Tai Chi Boxer has enough to offer martial arts fans. More casual viewers may prefer to start their exploration of Tai Chi Boxer territory with a more obvious landmark, such as Once Upon A Time In China.

Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2002
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An honest, unpretentious, entertaining martial arts movie.
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Director: Yuen Woo-ping, Cheung Sing-yim

Writer: Sze Yeung-Ping

Starring: Jacky Wu, Christy Chung, Darren Shahlavi, Sibelle Hu, Billy Chow, Mark Cheng, Chuen-Hua Chi, Shun Lau

Year: 1996

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Hong Kong


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