This was one of the first films assigned to me by Netflix -- yes, that's right folks, they're paying me to watch movies (and then enter metadata into their system; it's a part-time, freelance gig, but in these tough times I'm glad to have it).
A refreshingly upbeat, steampunk take on the period martial arts film, Tai Chi Hero (2012) is actually a sequel aka Tai Chi 2: The Hero Rises, renamed for an unsuspecting (and presumably uncaring) Western kung fu film viewership. It starts off with a lightening fast recap of the previous film -- man, those subs just fly by. For a slow reader like yours truly, it was more than a struggle to keep up!
And the pace stays pretty breathless throughout. The eponymous hero of the story is one Yang Lu Chan (1799 - 1872), famed innovator in the practice of Tai Chi (not the slow kind your Chinese grandma does in the park -- this is the quick-as-a-whip, ass-kicking variety). He gets married to bitchy yet beautiful Yu Niang (played by someone named Angelababy), and she proceeds to train him in her family's secret kung fu method. Meanwhile, her black sheep brother Zai Yang returns to the family full of secrets. He's an inventor and has created a fantastical flying machine (that apparently made a big splash in the first film).
There are numerous subplots, one in particular involving, of all people, Peter Stormare, the freaky Norwegian fellow from Fargo, here playing another heavy, a representative of the East India Company. Unfortunately, his storyline has less impact if you didn't see the first film.
If you're into Hong Kong film, watch this space; Netflix seems to be sending me HK films at a 3-1 ratio to Japanese films (sadly no Korean films -- someone else does those). As usual, I'll only be writing about the films I'd recommend (2012's The Treasure Hunter didn't do much for me, for example -- see? It ain't here). Next up: HK crime flick Nightfall.