Director: Chick I Hung
Starring: Xian Gao, Liang Guo, Hoi Yin Lee
One of my earliest exposures to Mainland China martial arts cinema, thanks to a timely vhs release by Ocean Shores.
An evil general orders an attack on a small clan that had been opposing him. The matriach is killed and only a few survive. These include an ex General and his two sons... who naturally swear revenge. Wrecklessly attacking the a portion of the General's army, the sons watch their father get mortally wounded, but are saved by a Shaolin monk. As he dies, the father explains to one of his sons that he was adopted and that his real father was also a General who was offed by the same baddie. They swear double revenge, but now are wise enough to go into hiding. They retreat to a secret cave where they can plot and plan. One day while gathering food, the two heroes witness two woman "dancing". Attempting to get a closer look, they are found out. The ladies explain that they are practicing Tai Chi. Their father explains that he too is an ousted General (alot of that going around) and agrees to teach the two vistors this unusual martial art and help prepare to get revenge.
The story is simple and predictable, a little too much so for this fan. But this is how it was for these early Mainland China epics. There was really no originality to speak of. Any fan of the genre has seen this story dozens of times (if not more so) in various Hong Kong and Taiwan lensed features. What does set this (and other Mainland films) apart from it's city dwelling brethren are the breathtaking country side settings and amazing (and plentiful) martial arts sequences, performed by actual lifelong practitioners (as opposed to Hong Kong where many of it's biggest stars where taught expressly for feature films). Although it's flowery Tai Chi and Wushu movements may take a little getting used to at first, ultimately it makes for terrific viewing. Of course as I mentioned in my review of 'Undaunted Wudang', there is a tradeoff of sorts as the very things that make these fighters so impressive also make them less personable. What you'll come away with here is remembering the action scenery, but not so much any one actor (no Fu Sheng or Chen Kwan Tai to be found here) and certainly not the dime a dozen plot (which truth to tell, I needed to rewatch just to remember what the story here was actually about).
Ultimately, "Tai Chi Chuan' will appeal to hard core martial arts film fans and perhaps to actual Tai Chi practicioners as the film is as much a Tai Chi lesson as it is a story bound film. Casual action fans may not be as into it, but for kung fu addicts, it easily serves it's purpose.