Man of Tai Chi (2013)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen
Writer: Michael G. Cooney
Director: Keanu Reeves
Synopsis (Anchor Bay):
Keanu Reeves stars as a wealthy owner of a Beijing underground fight club who recruits a humble Tai Chi student to his closed-circuit battles. But when the young man is seduced by money and power, it will trigger a war between the Hong Kong police, the world's deadliest combatants, and a peaceful spiritual discipline turned lethal new fighting style.
Man of Tai Chi is great action wrapped around a pedestrian narrative. It's kind of like a video game. One of those fighters from Dreamcast or Playstation 2 era that tries to add some depth to the characters, but in the end you don't give a shit, because you just want to fight. This flick would have a seriously high replay value if it were 105 minutes of straight ass kicking. It's the story that weighs it down a bit, along with a pretty hilarious performance from Keanu Reeves.
Saying Reeves is a terrible actor is somewhat of a double edged sword for me. On one hand, I do believe that assessment is accurate- while on the other I surprisingly like a whole hell of a lot of films he's been in. That being said, it's interesting to see him take on more of a villainous role in Man of Tai Chi. If you look at the film from a video game style perspective, his performance makes sense. He's really hamming it up here. Though, what's confusing is whether or not he's trying to. It also sorta feels like he's still stuck in his Matrix glory, but it's really hard to blame him. That movie made him look fairly cool.
Man of Tai Chi has fight choreography from legendary Yuen Woo Ping, and Tiger Chen – who worked stunts for the Matrix trilogy – takes the lead role. Mad credit can be given to Chen, as he really stands out as a character conflicted with the good and evil of the world. As far as acting goes, he runs circles around Reeves. Fights circles around him too, for that matter.
There's a review blurb on the back of the Blu-ray case that cites Man of Tai Chi as being the best martial arts film since The Raid. That's a seriously bold statement, and one that I can't agree with. Taking nothing away from Man of Tai Chi, as the fights are indeed awesome, but they don't pack the same punch. Not even close. More importantly, at the end of the day, this is a much different type of film. So, be advised not to fully read into that comparison. With that out of the way, the fighting in this film is fast paced and highly exciting, and Reeves is spot on as far as camera placement to capture it all. It's very obvious that he's a fan of the genre.
Additionally, there's some great choices of music that accompanies all the ass kicking. Well, not even just for the fighting. Sometimes the music does a fantastic job of making Tiger Chen look straight up awesome while he's walking around the city and whatnot. It made me feel cool just watching it.
All in all, not a bad directorial debut for Keanu Reeves. It would be nice to see more come from him behind the camera. Man of Tai Chi is light on story and often silly, but there's enough feet and fists vs. faces and other body parts to keep you entertained.
Anchor Bay/Starz releases Man of Tai Chi on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, December 10th, 2013. Special features include a "Making of Man of Tai Chi" featurette and an audio commentary with Keanu Reeves and Tiger Chen. Order the DVD HERE and the Blu-ray HERE.
- Eric (Brobocop)