First off, I’m not entirely sure why this movie goes under so many names, especially Tai Chi II since this is a stand-alone story and Wu Jing’s (Jackie Wu) first movie, made in 1993. In fact, his character becomes known as “Jackie” as the movie progresses (which seems like an homage to Jackie Chan of course). The word “chuan” might also be sounded out by foreigners or through other dialects as “chun” or “quan”. The word “chuan” (in its many forms) can be translated as fist, school, or boxing; this explains the rest of the names. Someone should just choose the official Western title and be done with it.
Getting past the name, this is a great kung fu movie on many levels. Let’s start with the obvious… fantastic kung fu, as is the pattern from director Yuen Woo-ping, the incredible director of other classics like Drunken Master and Iron Monkey. In fact, this movie rates up there with the best of them in terms of choreography. Movements are clear, creative, and not overly zoomed in on. On top of that, Jackie Wu is clearly an accomplished martial artist. All supporting actors are also great to watch.
In the movie, the father of Hawkman (the main character’s original name) forces the youngster to study endless hours at a desk with his extremely long pony tail tied to the ceiling. Hawkman learns to maneuver through the room with his head tethered to secretly watch his father’s awesome tai chi skill. Longing for the peaceful life, the father decides to retire from his martial lifestyle at the start of the film. Of course, Hawkman wants more.
The story takes place in China at a time when western influences are appearing. In most kung fu movies that I’ve watched, the westerners are the evil elements. However, it is oddly half-true in this movie. Much of the story centers on the influx of democratic ideals into China (it may take place in Hong Kong; I’m not sure.) Hawkman sneaks away from his father’s watchful eye and meets a girl. The girl interest is influenced by her studies abroad in America. Even though the daughter of an affluent government man, she spreads the message of democracy throughout the city with help from her westernized friends. The love-struck Hawkman jumps on the bandwagon and changes his name to Jackie. Of course, these western ideas are not looked favorably upon by the government who has been corrupted by the TRUE evil westerners… the East India Trading Company and their illegal opium smuggling ring! Jackie enjoys the challenge with his stolen tai chi kung fu and specialized ponytail whip attacks. (Thanks for the neck training dad!) Oh, and his dad is also amazing. This movie defeats the west while supporting the west.
I’m surprised this film doesn’t have more recognition in the U.S. Heck, it only got 3.5 stars on Netflix. Yes, the story isn’t anything special. The bad-guy is kind of lame. However, it is one kick ass fight movie and that’s good enough for me. Add a full star onto this one.