Tai Chi II (1996)
Reviewed by: pjshimmer on 2002-11-04
Summary: A breath of fresh air
In 1996, Mainland's new martial arts sensation Jacky Wu Jing teamed up with the industry's most effective action choreographer and director Yuen Wo Ping to make one of the last great martial arts movies of Hong Kong. The result is a light-hearted wuxia film with dynamic action.

The story takes place around the turn of the last century, when foreigners have occupied several Chinese ports and opium was the widespread disease. One master of tai chi, Yang, decides to retire in order to give his son an opportunity to study. They move to a new place, but instead of teaching his son tai chi, Yang locks up him up in his room and forces him to read Chinese classics. One day, the young boy Hawk sneaks out and by chance meets the overseas-educated daughter of the local port governor who goes by the English name of Rose. The story unfolds as Hawk further pursues Rose. In fact, she has democratic values and is promoting this concept to her fellow Chinese. After a discovering the British's scheme to smuggle more opium into China, Hawk and Rose unite together to cease the spread of opium. Rose also has to help her dad quit opium. But when the British kill Rose's ex-fiance and points the finger at Hawk, can the new couple avoid punishable death, and can they overcome the British's evildoing--as well as an expert kicker from the past?

As a genre lover, one can be sure that Tai Chi II will not be a disappointment. It features dynamic action, which is the best thing about the movie. Legendary kicker Billy Chow (Fist of Legend) shows off his skills in several well-staged fight scenes, and Mark Cheng (Peking Opera Blues) and Wu Jing each proves his ability. Even if you are not a fan of the martial arts genre, you can appreciate the work put into choreographing this period piece. One point of interest is the similarities between the end fights in this movie and in "Once Upon a Time in China 1". Both take place in a big warehouse, and both feature fights on ladders. In addition, in both movies the Caucasian villain takes the Chinese official as hostage.

In contrast to the great "Once Upon a Time in China," "Tai Chi II" is a few notches below. Nevertheless, it has plenty to offer. Wu Jing's profile has been on the rise in the TV industry lately, having made several successful kung fu series. Fans of Jacky (who also goes by Jason) will be satified by his performance here. Christy Chung, whose acting ability is questionable, gives an acceptable performance as the classy daughter of the official. If this movie brought in Sharla Cheung Man for the role, it would have been even better.

One need not worry about the "sentimentality" of this movie. The story is intented to be taken lightly, and there is almost no emotional scene. This is actually a good thing, because almost every previous wuxia movie has been openly sentimental. So this is a good change. The plot could have benefitted from a few more polishment, as the execution is not very effective.

In a Nutshell...

Tai Chi II is a good period martial arts film in the best tradition of the genre-definers such as Once Upon a Time in China and Iron Monkey. Any fan of the genre should enjoy it. The film is, however, NOT a sequel to Jet Li's "Tai Chi Master," which is also directed by Yuen Wo Ping.

[8/10]