Tai Chi II (1996)

Directed by
Reviewed by Simon on 2003-08-24

TAI CHI II was one of the last of the wire-fu movies that followed in the wake of Once Upon A Time In China, the film to which it obviously aspires. Yuen Wo-Ping directs and choreographs the action, and the film introduced new actor Wu Jing, as a young kid who gets caught up in a battle with opium smugglers and corrupt officials.

The film is chock full of fight scenes, and they are quite simply fantastic. Wu Jing is a really impressive martial artist, sharing a very similar pedigree to Jet Li. Yuen Wo-Ping is on top form as well, with the mixture of Tai Chi-influenced moves and OUATIC-style wire stunts being amongst his best work, though it features some of the least well hidden wires I've ever seen.

Wu certainly doesn't have the screen presence or acting ability of Jet Li, but to be honest his fighting is probably better. It's something a mystery why he disappeared after TAI CHI II, and didn't resurface until he played a small part in Legend Of Zu five years later. Perhaps it just wasn't the right time for a martial artist to be making films in Hong Kong... he's still young though, so maybe there's hope for him yet. I haven't seen him in Drunken Monkey yet, but hopefully he's still got the moves.

edit: ah, a quick check at his website reveals he was pretty active in TV in between movies!

Anyway, Tai Chi II doesn't seem to be too popular even with the genre fans, but I think it deserves more credit than it usually gets. Sure it's not up to the same overall quality as OUATIC, but it's still a thoroughly worthwhile entry in the wire-fu halls of fame. The only real problem with it is that the visible wires - it's a shame HKL couldn't have done a bit of wire removal when they were restoring the print.