Consistently stylish as well as almost completely self-referential Taichi Zero has been advertised as being the first in a new breed of Kung-Fu movie that melds traditional narratives with modern sensibilities. Don’t believe the marketing. Taichi Zero nails its Michael Bay sensitivities well enough with an overabundance of slow motion and rapid fire editing but it is also saddled with a less than engaging narrative, wooden performances and a next to total lack of pace including a demoralizing third act that sucks the life out of the movie like a rabid vampire who hasn’t fed in centuries. Director/actor Stephen Fung tries the kitchen sink approach to filmmaking crafting a visually engaging yarn but his direction feels forced as if he made the erroneous decision that more equals better. It simply doesn’t jive and by the end of the film you can tell that Fung has long since run out of parlor tricks to captivate audiences leaving the film wallowing like a beached whale.
History goes completely out the window in this prequel to the Donnie Yen Ip Man films with newcomer Dennis To taking over the lead role playing a young version of the title character in his formative years before he took over as master and starting teaching the Wing Chun martial arts style. The movie play incredibly loose with the facts here and while some of it is true for the most part the entire narrative is completely fabricated with the inclusion of yet another hoary old love triangle and an inherently bizarre subplot featuring, you guessed it, another evil Japanese antagonist that makes as much sense as sticking a wet finger into a live electrical socket. While utilizing cartoon-like evil Japanese characters comes as no surprise the villain’s plot is so woefully unbelievable I had to actually rewind a key scene to watch it again to make sure I didn’t hear it incorrectly.
Herman Yau’s Woman Knight of Mirror Lake is a massive surprise presenting a topical biopic of Qiu Jin (Huang Yi) a turn of the century feminist figure in China who not only gained prominence for championing women’s rights but also actively participated in the uprising that eventually sparked the Chinese Civil War and the ultimate downfall of the Qing dynasty. This biopic is often a bit too heavy-handed and though the martial arts sequences are well done they feel as if they don’t truly belong in this particular narrative. Nevertheless, the movie succeeds and certainly passes the test that most biopics strive for in providing an insightful look into a historical figure that is both illuminating as well as uplifting.
When a cute CG talking mouse with less than five minutes of screen time is the film’s most memorable character you know that there’s a problem here. Considering the amount of talent in front and behind the camera it’s hard to imagine how everyone involved managed to create only a middling romantic fairy tale that spends far too much time on the blasted soundtrack than crafting a time honored narrative revolving around love and sacrifice. The finished product is certainly watchable with your brain switched off but it could have been so much more.
An unnecessarily complicated plot coupled with a next to total lack of rhythm sends this period piece careening off the cliff leaving viewers completely exasperated and quite frankly befuddled. The Four is a movie which defies easy genre categorization since it contains elements of the traditional martial arts movie set in ancient China replete with wire-aided effects joined with an oddball combination of a murder mystery and, wait for it, zombies. Yes, they might not be called zombies specifically but when the main antagonist’s evil scheme is revealed to be nothing more than utilizing re-animated corpses you might as well hope Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield from the Resident Evil videogames show up and shoot the place to Hell. At the very least it would be vastly more entertaining than this inert mess.
The Killer Who Never Kills basically gives away its entire premise in its title quickly giving audiences a good idea as to whether or not it is appealing enough to devote two hours of their life to watch it. However, while the movie might have worked wonders as either a flat-out action thriller or even a dark comedy the filmmakers have taken a much different tack and decided to fashion a movie about an assassin who cannot pull the trigger into a lighthearted romantic comedy with a dash of slapstick humour. It takes an incredibly skillful director and a well-constructed script to take such morose subject matter and imbue it with quick wit but none of that is present making the final product an inconceivable mess that fails no matter what genre it pretends to inhabit.
Often when I read the daily news many a journalist says that they would love to be a fly on the wall whenever the President makes an earth shattering decision or during key moments which decide the fate of the world. After seeing City Under Siege I can safely say that my new dream is to be that fly on the wall during the many screenwriting sessions that it must have taken to create this masterpiece. I am sure that no amount of academic study could ever prepare me for the on the job training and many pointers that I would soak up that revealed how this film was crafted because it takes near omnipotent skill to create what can only be described as one of the most vile, irritating and absolutely stunningly bad movies I have ever had the displeasure of watching.
White Vengeance is a mostly solid film based on the famous hongmen banquet incident which occurred in Ancient China circa 206 BC which endeavors to chronicle how two blood brothers vie to become the next Emperor of China. Director Daniel Lee manages to craft an expansive historical epic that actually feels fresh because he focuses more on strategy and tactics rather than showcasing massive armies that clash in gigantic battles. Unfortunately, a few unintentional modern elements and some ghastly editing decisions almost torpedo the entire project turning a taut well-paced thriller into a slapstick farce.