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Issue #157 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES April 28th, 2003

Tai Chi II (Two versions)
(1996; Film Can Production)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Tai gik kuen
Mandarin: Tai ji quan
English: Tai Chi Fist

UK Title: Tai Chi Boxer

Despite the roman numeral in the English title and the participation of celebrated martial arts director Yuen Woo-ping, this modest, old-fashioned period entry bears no direct relation to Yuen's THE TAI CHI MASTER (1993), aside from its hero's proficiency in the eponymous skill. When he's not driving his conservative father (Yu Hai, from the Mainland SHAOLIN TEMPLE series) around the bend, Hok Man (THE LEGEND OF ZU's Jacky Wu Jing) spends his time receiving instruction in English and picking up romantic tips from his mom (veteran Taiwanese actress Sibelle Hu Hui-ching, in a role patterned after Anita Mui Yim-fong's feisty stepmom from DRUNKEN MASTER II). The object of his infatuation: American-educated Rose (Christy Chung Lai-tai), whose quest to bring science and democracy to China is a serious embarrassment to her boyfriend Lam Wing (Mark Cheng Ho-nam), a Ching officer. When Wing is murdered by British opium smuggler Smith (BLOODMOON's Darren Shahlavi), Hok Man is framed for the crime and must use his talents to exonerate himself and save his fellow countrymen from the foreign scourge.

Jacky Wu (left) and Christy Chung (right).
Additional stills: Yu Hai; Billy Chow
Images courtesy Hong Kong Legends. Above pictures have ZOOM links,
click on picture for larger images.

Although Yuen used to specialize in films that touted traditional skills, he utilizes too much cartoonish, undercranked wirework here and that, coupled with the routine plot and weak stock score, make this something of a disappointment. While some of the combat is invigorating, the film is often more effective during the comic exchanges between Hok Man and his doting mom, and the boy's rather charming attempts to ingratiate himself with Rose. Their interplay makes for pleasant, if not essential, viewing. In his first lead role, Wu displays considerable physical dexterity; he's got the deadliest "flying braid stance" since Angela Mao Ying in HAPKIDO (U.S. title: LADY KUNG FU, 1973)! Billy Chow Bei-lee co-stars as a belligerent martial artist skilled in the Northern Leg style and bald Mainland martial arts mainstay Chi Chuen-hua plays one of the villains. Yuen shares directorial credit for the picture with Cheung Yam-yim, who oversaw the non-action sequences.

Cover art courtesy Tai Seng.

Cover art courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Tai Chi II
Tai Seng #46114 (US label)

Dolby Digital 1.0

Cantonese, Mandarin, and English Language Tracks (all post-synced)

Optional English Subtitles

18 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With (Tiny) Clips

Letterboxed (1.65:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

Macrovision Encoded

NTSC Format

96 Minutes

Contains moderate violence

DVD menu courtesy Tai Seng.

Tai Chi Boxer
Hong Kong Legends/Medusa #MDV 583 (UK label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Cantonese and English Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional English Subtitles

28 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With (Tiny) Stills

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (1.75:1)

Coded for Region 2 Only

Macrovision Encoded

PAL Format

92 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate violence

DVD menu courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Great Britain: 15
Hong Kong: II
Netherlands: 12
Ontario: AA
Singapore: PG

Tai Seng released a good no-frills, non-anamorphic NTSC disc of TAI CHI II a few years back. The image is sufficiently sharp and colorful, and the source material only suffers from minor wear. The mono audiotracks are a bit scratchy but no worse than one would expect from a low-budget independent production. Extras consist of video promo spots for this and five other Tai Seng DVD titles, plus bios/filmographies for Christy Chung, Jacky Wu, and Yuen Woo-ping.

Hong Kong Legends offers a deluxe PAL R2 special edition of the film under the new handle of TAI CHI BOXER. Gifted with 16:9 enhancement and a digitally restored transfer, the HKL disc is the better of the two though, as this was a fairly new production and Tai Seng's materials were in good shape to begin with, the differences are not as pronounced as usual. The image is a bit brighter, detail levels are somewhat higher, and no wear is evident. There is a tiny bit more at the sides, and a sliver less at the top and bottom compared to the US disc. Also, as is often the case with HKL titles, slight vertical compression is evident in direct comparison but it is not pronounced enough to cause a distraction. The audio is much cleaner and HKL's 5.1 remix effectively enhances the score and impact of the fight sequences. The front speakers offer a reasonably enveloping soundfield but the rear channels are mostly missing in action. The subtitles are a toss-up, with the US release better conveying some things, while the UK disc does a more thorough job with others. This is mostly noticeable during comedic sequences. Tai Seng's subtitles increase the accessibility of the humour, particularly during the hero's English lessons. A prime example: Jacky Wu's incredulous reaction upon learning that his mother's English name is "Diana"; he misinterprets it as Dai wan na, which is Cantonese for "big windpipe"! This joke is passed over in the UK release but, on the whole, HKL's subs are perfectly acceptable and do offer some subtleties that the American translation drops.

Christy Chung (left) and Darren Shahlavi (right).
Images courtesy Hong Kong Legends. Above pictures have ZOOM links, click on picture for larger images.

Bey Logan's commentary effectively covers all of the usual bases, providing good background on the principles behind and in front of the camera (though he incorrectly refers to Chi Chuen-hwa as "Chen Hua-chi"). Of particular interest is his detailed history of tai chi as both an exercise and a fighting discipline. Logan also interviews Christy Chung in a 23 minute supplement, where she relates her memories of the production, working with Stephen Chiau, Jet Li, and Jackie Chan, and her pictorial book (you also get 4 minutes of outtakes, including a stupid orgasm joke that only works because she is the one acting it out). Darren Shahlavi (40 minutes) quite eloquently discusses his early addiction to Bruce Lee movies and the subsequent decision to devote his time and energies to martial arts. He also provides a thorough overview of his film work, and discusses the challenges of working on HK movies and Yuen Woo-ping's strengths as choreographer. It is an informative talk and also includes some behind-the-scenes bits taken during production. Also included are two more minutes of on-set footage, a gallery of production photos, a small collection of Christy Chung pics, the HK trailer, and UK video promo spot (plus additional ones for other HKL titles). The layer change at 1:16:20 disrupts the commentary but is otherwise smooth.

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