Feng Shaofeng

Tai Chi Zero (2012, Stephen Fung)

Presumably the Zero in Tai Chi Zero‘s title indicates a second installment is forthcoming, because this one ends on two cliffhangers. The film joyously embraces its artificiality–there’s no attempt at making the kung fu fighting seem realistic; instead, director Fung concentrates on making it look good and drawing attention to that effort. The opening titles all have annotations, informing the viewer where they might have seen cast members before. The method makes Zero a lot of fun, when it otherwise might not be.

It’s not a particularly fun story. Yuan Xiaochao plays an orphan who ends up in a possibly villainous army, his commander knowingly endangering his life because of a mysterious kung fu-enabling ailment. He journeys to an idyllic village, hoping to save his own life, where he’s met with derision from the townsfolk.

Meanwhile, Eddie Peng plays another outsider who’s never been accepted, but now he’s back to build a railroad through his old village.

Angelababy is the girl; she pines for Peng and constantly kicks Yuan’s ass with the kung fu he desperately wants to learn. All three give good performances, especially Peng. And Tony Leung Ka Fai’s great as Yuan’s reluctant friend.

While the film’s constantly trying to be amusing–and it succeeds almost all of the time–the technical achievements are significant. The photography’s fantastic, as is Katsunori Ishida’s music. Katsunori toggles between grand melodramatic scoring and playful action instantly.

It’s hard to hold the problematic ending against Zero. It’s just too fun.



Directed by Stephen Fung; screenplay by Cheng Hsiao-tse and Zhang Jialu, based on a story by Chen Kuo-fu; directors of photography, Peter Ngor, Lai Yiu-Fai and Du Jie; edited by Cheng, Matthew Hui, Zhang Jialu and Zhang Weili; music by Katsunori Ishida; production designer, Timmy Yip; produced by Wang Zhongjun, Daniel Wu and Zhang Dajun; released by Huayi Brothers Media.

Starring Yuan Xiaochao (Yang Lu Chan), Angelababy (Chen Yunia), Tony Leung Ka Fai (Uncle Laborer), Eddie Peng (Fang Zi Jing), Shu Qi (Yang Lu Chan’s Mother) and Feng Shaofeng (Chen Zai-Yang).

Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012, Wuershan)

Painted Skin: The Resurrection is an unpleasant experience, straddling the fence between stupid and bad. The script, from Ran Ping and Ran Jia-nan, is the weakest link. This magnificent, grandiose melodrama set in Ancient China only has a handful of characters in it. The side characters populating an elaborately constructed–physically and digitally–fall away to concentrate on the leads. While it makes some sense narratively, it makes Resurrection feel empty and fake; the script seems more geared towards cutscenes in a video game.

The CG doesn’t help the artificiality much either. Almost every shot–meaning ninety-eight percent, not sixty or some low figure–has some kind of CG in it. Suspiciously named director Wuershan composes–with his digital crutch–some lovely shots, unfortunately he can’t direct. The action scenes in Resurrection are atrocious, full of inexplicable slow motion. Then Wuershan carries over that slow motion to every sequence in the movie. Like the already boring movie needs to be artificially extended….

Resurrection is a pointless assault on the senses, with Ishida Katsunori’s lousy score an accomplice. It’s too much, every time–except when it comes to pixie cute demon, Mini Yang. The filmmakers inexplicably cheap out on her effects.

None of the acting is good, with lead Zhao Wei probably being the worst. She’s really, really bad. Her demon sidekick, Zhou Xun, is a little better. The object of their mutual affections–Kun Chen–gives the film’s “best” performance.

Resurrection‘s the pits from the opening titles.



Directed by Wuershan; written by Ran Ping and Ran Jia-nan; director of photography, Arthur Wong; edited by Xiao Yang; music by Ishida Katsunori; produced by Pang Hong, Wang Zhonglei and Chen Kuo-fu; released by Huayi Brothers Media.

Starring Chen Kun (Huo Xin), Zhao Wei (Princess Jing), Zhou Xun (Xiaowei), Mini Yang (Que’er), Feng Shaofeng (Pang Lang), Fei Xiang (The Witch Doctor of Tianlang), Chen Tingjia (The Queen of Tianlang) and Morgan Benoit (Wolf Slave of Tianlang).

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