By Robert Abele
10:00 PM EDT, April 25, 2013
There's more swooping, boisterous stylization to be had in Stephen Fung's "Tai Chi Hero," the picking-up-where-we-left-off follow-up to last year's epic silliness, "Tai Chi Zero."
Having saved peaceful Chen village from mechanized, Western-influenced invaders, gifted martial artist Lu Chan (Jayden Yuan) is still trying to ingratiate himself with the locals, who tell him their legendary brand of tai-chi-centric kung fu is off-limits to outsiders. When the prodigal son (Feng Shaofeng) of the local grandmaster (Tony Leung Ka Fai) returns, bristling at his sister's impending marriage to Lu Chan, and a revitalized army attempts another village overthrow for purposes of building a railroad, everyone's loyalties are tested, kung fu mastery is challenged and, of course, battles must be waged. (Another massive industrial weapon is introduced too, a flying contraption called Heaven's Wings.)
Fung and esteemed action choreographer Sammo Hung keep the creative whiz-bang of the fight sequences the best part — even if enhanced effects are too prevalent — and there's less of the hyperventilated genre-pinging (video games, manga, comic books) from the first film. But there's still a nagging, cartoonish emptiness — and a trilogy-ending installment still to come.
"Tai Chi Hero." No MPAA Rating. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes. At AMC Atlantic Times Square.
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