Title: Man of Tai Chi
Directed by: Keanu Reeves
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Tiger Chen, Karen Mok
Running time: 105 Minutes, Rated R, Available on DVD
Special Features: Commentary with Keanue Reeves and Tiger Chen; The Making of Man of Tai Chi featurette
A young student of Tai Chi (Tiger Chen) who develops his own fighting style from the teachings of his sensei, catches the eye of entrepreneur Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves) who recruits him to fight privately for his own pleasure. What he doesn’t divulge to Tiger is that the fights are filmed and shown as a pay-per-view event on the internet and Tiger’s whole life events are being orchestrated as a reality show. At first Tiger is only fighting for the money to save his temple from re developers, but starts to enjoy the glory of the win. Donaka then decides to step up the programming and turns them into fights to the death. If Tiger refuses to go through with the killing, his temple is gone and Donaka will take him out personally.
I liked the fighting, I didn’t like that they used “wire fu” a few times. Can we get rid of this kitschy crap? Wire stunts worked for fantasy films like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and The Matrix (where Keanu met Tiger) but they have no place in films that are supposed to be based in reality. Whenever I see it, a film loses points in my eyes because it’s just so lame. I won’t hold it against the film entirely because the majority of the fight choreography is pretty wonderful.
The cinematography is very lush and beautifully shot. Keanu managed to get Elliot Davis who worked on Twilight (ugh), Out of Sight, and Lords of Dogtown. I am quite impressed with the look of the film.
Keanu Reeves does a surprisingly good job as a director and does what most directors who appear in their own films should do – keep their screen time to the bare minimum. It was a little difficult considering Keanu is a co-star, but he made it happen. Usually actor/director egos overshadow their performances and since Keanu only popped up occasionally, it made for a smoother flow of the story and showcased Tiger as the main star. I will say that maybe his direction trickled into the acting style of Tiger Chen who was almost like a Keanu clone on screen. Oh God no, please forget everything he taught you Tiger. There is a reason why he’s not in so many films as of late, it’s because Hollywood finally opened their eyes and can see the dude can’t act. The fight at the ending definitely reinforced my opinion there.
I will unashamedly say I would watch this film again. It’s a total guilty pleasure movie.
Total Rating: A
Reviewed by: JM Willis