Shortly before the October 12th screening of Tai Chi 0, HIFF staff announced there were technical difficulties with the film. To be more specific, they warned that the sample version of the film was sent over by accident. This meant that the film we saw was low-res, and had the word SAMPLE covering the center of the screen. When the SAMPLE first showed up, the audience clapped sarcastically and laughed, but as the film progressed, only a handful of walk-outs were seen. The theater remained 90% full throughout the screening, and nobody seemed to care that the film they paid between $8 and $12 to see was obscured.
The plot follows a prodigy in kung-fu as he treks across China to find Chen village to learn a special form of Tai Chi that will save him from certain death. As his efforts to learn Tai Chi are shot down by the villagers, the East India Trading Company tries to build a train through the town, led by a rejected Chinese-English suitor for the village princess. From there on, most of the plot is taken up by the steampunk train-track-laying iron monster controlled by a bureaucratic British woman. The film was very notably anti-western, although a lot of the style and cinematography is inspired by the Western genre. The most obvious influence is 2010’s Scott Pilgrim Vs The World .
The rest of the plot is irrelevant, as it is all a set-up for awesomely choreographed fight scenes, including a climax which involves re-purposing fruits to use non-violently against a foreign army. The film itself is visually stunning and entertaining, and the low-res pixelated quality of the screen took little effort to get over. The odd translation and word choice, like calling the hero “The Freak” and having his catchphrase “what the hell?” come up every ten minutes, compliments the film’s humor.
In the end, the audience walked away happy with strained eyes from Tai Chi 0. A sequel, Tai Chi Hero is advertised in the film’s end credits.