"If word gets out, we'll be the laughing stock of the martial arts world"
TAI CHI WARRIORS is a weird international martial arts film, but not weird enough to be interesting; that's the best assessment I can give it. It bears strong similarities to the production style of TWIN DAGGERS - not to mention featuring a handful of the same cast members - but not unlike that one, it goes to show that a couple unorthodox scenes coupled with general lightheartedness (intentional or not) aren't enough to make it the new NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER. There are several enigmatic elements concerning its production that I wouldn't mind having explained, but that doesn't change that the movie itself isn't nearly as intriguing as it should be.
The story: in order to stay competitive to his longtime rival, an ailing tai chi/kung fu master (David Chiang) agrees to widen his circle of students and eventually accepts a challenge to pit his pupils against his enemy's in hand-to-hand combat for the title of supremacy.
Innumerable subplots are annoyingly abounded throughout the movie, but you never really lose sight of the main story, so that's a plus for the writing department. The rest of the production, however, is somewhat inscrutable. Apparently, the movie was filmed in 2004 and not released until 2008, but for the love of me it looks and sounds as though it were produced entirely in 1985. The picture is obviously aged and its on screen credits seem engraved into it, and the audio features stretches that seem to have been filmed without sound, with effects and voices dubbed in later. Were it not for the rest of the movie not being dubbed and the characters referencing modern things like online commerce, I'd surmise that the film was indeed that old and simply didn't get released until now. I can't help but conclude that the filmmakers pulled off the retro effect much better than GRINDHOUSE, and this alone is the movie's most noteworthy feat.
The rest of the production isn't admirable. There are instances wherein the camera seems to grow roots and doesn't move at all for long stretches of time, and sometimes the characters are so poorly-recorded that it's difficult to hear them over the background music (then again, understanding the characters is difficult enough as it is: though filmed in English, most of the Oriental performers are clearly being fed their lines and relaying them poorly). The wuxia-style fight scenes mostly aren't impressive: some of the performers clearly have some skill but they're stifled by a cropped picture and overzealous quick-cut editing. David Chiang has the single most obvious stunt double in the world. The wire-fu is more obvious and unrealistic than Tony Ching could ever achieve: in a standout scene, a woman appears to literally fly off the seat of her bicycle without any hint of propulsion. The final set of battles between the two masters' students finally features some good choreography and uninterrupted exchanges, but it's too little delivered too late to save the picture. More entertaining is the unfathomable scene of "tai chi bowling" taking place in the first half of the flick, but nothing as fun or silly happens for the rest of the film.
I haven't listed any of the actors other than David Chiang, and that's because they're mainly a forgettable bunch, highlighted only by the excessively boisterous and annoying Joey Covington, whose character models himself after Bruce Lee but is also the worst fighter of the bunch. Additionally, the movie's title is moot: Chiang does teach his students tai chi, but it isn't used during fight scenes and very little of its philosophy or technique is afforded to the audience or elaborated upon. The movie seems to lose focus sometime before the halfway point and never really regains it, going off in several different directions at once, none of them leading anywhere very interesting. There's a reason you haven't heard about this film before, folks. Leave it be.
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