Tai Chi Zero

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Hard Romanticker The streets of Tokyo are awash in blood and attitude in this tale of warring thugs battling for supremacy and revenge. An old woman is killed during a burglary, and her hoodlum grandson mistakenly believes Gu (Shota Matsuda) was behind the murder. Gu finds himself targeted, but he’s far too cool to run and instead finds time to cause some carnage of his own. This is a hard and brutal film that finds both cruelty and black humor in the lives of these punks. No one escapes unscathed, and women fare extremely poorly, but the film makes an effort to take the romance out of these junior yakuza’s lifestyles. Artsploitation Films is still a young label, but their third (and best) release continues to get everything right. In addition to the fantastic film they’ve included a booklet featuring two in depth essays on the film. Also, while this may only matter to nerdy collectors like myself, they’re also wisely numbering their releases on the spine a la Criterion and Drafthouse Films. [Extras: Trailer, collector's booklet]

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  Editor’s note: With Tai Chi Zero now officially released in theaters, here is a re-run of our Fantastic Fest review, originally published on September 30, 2012. The martial arts genre has always featured period films fairly prominently, but it seems the Hong Kong and mainland China film industries have made a home there in recent years with no intention of leaving it anytime soon. Truth be told the biggest problem with the pseudo genre is that it’s swallowed Donnie Yen whole. He hasn’t made a contemporary film since 2007’s bone-crackingly brilliant Flash Point! But Yen aside, there are so many of these films that it’s getting difficult to tell them apart. Writer Kuo-fu Chen and director Stephen Fung recognized this fact and set out to tell a tale that would stand apart from the herd. The ace up their sleeve is a visual style that brings slow-mo, onscreen graphics and the inclusion of steam-punk elements to their story of a young man who travels to a remote village to learn a very specific and equally powerful form of martial arts. His quest is interrupted by Western-led intruders bent on leveling the town to make way for a railroad. On paper, and in trailer form, Tai Chi Zero seems like a success, but the end result is a mixed bag of frenetic action, humorous asides and a silliness that just won’t quit.

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Everyone knows martial arts movies are awesome, but we can also probably agree that the influx of period films have gotten out of hand. The past few years have seen the genre stagnate a bit with every release seemingly featuring ancient warlords scuffling in ancient China. Hell, we lost the great Donnie Yen to period pieces, and he hasn’t fought in the present day since 2007’s fantastic Flash Point. This trend doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. But just because period films are the new normal that doesn’t meant they all have to be the same. And Tai Chi Zero appears to be just the film to prove it. It’s a period piece, but it infuses the world with steam punk and style to create something pretty unique and spectacular-looking. Check out the exclusive poster premiere below along with the latest trailer, and then hightail your ass to Austin for this weekend’s screening of Tai Chi Zero at Fantastic Fest.

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