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|Index||117 reviews in total|
Nice movie to waste time, but the acting was pretty bad overall,
especially by Reeves. I do think hes a good actor but definitely not in
this movie. For his directional debut, the movie was well directed by
Reeves but he should either focus solely on acting in the movie or
directing it, not both. The story line is also very predictable, I
didn't see any of the trailers before I watched it and found myself
guessing 90% of the story as the movie progressed. Also if you are
looking to get your kung-fu fix, this movie isn't a horrible choice but
definitely much, much better movies out there.
Tl;Dr: Decent movie, bad acting, good martial arts, much better choices to invest your time in.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This Review might contain slight spoilers because well, in order to
review it, some context has to be made with other films. So the
spoilers are not going to ruin the film.
TLDR / If you like action movies, especially martial arts movies, this is a must watch.
Man of Tai Chi is a pretty great effort for Keanu Reeves debut. The camera work was excellent, the editing was fast paced, the fights were believable (although, there was some wire kung-fu - more on that later), and in general, the movie felt like watching a modernized classic 1980's martial arts movie.
It is the same basic story as thousands of films and older martial arts. Hero is innocent, hero (or town or friend or village) loses something, hero is forced to fight, and then the hero determines ultimately which path he wants to take, good or evil. The most recent movie I can think of to compare this to is Tony Jaa's Onk Bak. It really is quite a similar movie, following the plot pretty closely, but also adding it's own style and a more futuristic setting.
In the film, Tiger is becoming a master of Tai Chi, an art known more for meditation than for fighting. The movie deals with his inner turmoil of disappointing his master while also trying to establish himself. On that aspect, the movie succeeds because Tiger Hu Chen plays the part pretty well, especially for a man who mostly is a stuntman. Keanu Reeves actually does a decent job in his role and is a believable villain. Although neither are exceptional, it doesn't matter because the movie, like most "pure" martial art films that have come before it, is all about the fighting.
Now, a lot of reviews and comments complain about all of the "wire fu" used in this film. There isn't as much as they would lead you to believe. Most of the "wire fu" is used to fling people back further to demonstrate the strength of the many different styles in the film, or to make a character appear to be unbeatable, or to pull off a couple of the more complex stunts. In general, besides a few scenes, it is not distracting and doesn't undermine the movie in any way. If anything, it enhances some of the fights because it emphasizes Tiger's small statue and "weak" fighting style when he fights larger, more powerful foes.
And that is what this film is all about is the fights. Again, like Onk Bak, the story is just a reason to watch fight after fight after fight. In this movie, that is exactly what you get. The movie is probably 20% dialogue and 80% fighting and that is where it shines. It is very clear that Keanu did his homework and basically made an homage film to kung fu movies overall. Without question, Reeves succeeded.
Quite simply, if this movie had came out in 1990 and stared Jackie Chan in the lead (although that would lead to more goofy scenes but lets just pretend Jackie plays it straight) this film would have been considered revolutionary.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm wondering if, like Ben Affleck before him, maybe Keanu Reeves is better behind the film than in the film. Sure Keanu has had a more successful career than Ben, and Ben is probably the better actor (which isn't saying much), however if this is Keanu Reeves debut, I can't help but be anxious to see what he does next.
A solid 7.5 from me, which I rounded down to a 7. For those who don't read my reviews, or check my rating history, you know I am not a instant 1 or 10 reviewer / rater. I think I've given 2 10's in my entire life, and maybe a few 9's.
TLDR / If you like action movies, especially martial arts movies, this is a must watch.
MAN OF TAI CHI marks a collaboration between Hollywood and China as the
studios join forces to make a traditional tournament-based martial arts
flick. The film is directed by and stars Keanu Reeves as an evil
millionaire who mounts violent fight tournaments and broadcasts them to
internet viewers in a bid for fame and fortune.
What MAN OF TAI CHI has going for it are the plentiful fight sequences, all of them expertly choreographed by Yuen-Woo Ping. It's hard to go wrong with tournament-style films - they're a staple of B-movies, after all - and the almost constant stream of hard-hitting fights makes this great fun to sit through.
There's little more to it than the action, however, seeing as the film is deeply flawed. Reeves's debut direction is applaudable, but they could have picked a better person than a composer to write the trite, predictable storyline. Elsewhere, Tiger Hu Chen proves to be a charisma-free leading man, despite his impressive tai chi skills, while Karen Mok overacts for all her worth. Simon Yam is barely in it despite being prominently billed. Worst of all, Iko Uwais makes a cameo appearance and doesn't even get to fight - the dumbest decision in the entire movie. My recommendation is to watch it for the fights but don't go in expecting much else, because you won't get it.
Man of Tai Chi is a very enjoyable movie, but it may not be for everyone. The plot and characters are fairly straight forward, and the fight scenes are fairly grounded, so they won't be too exciting if you're in the mood for a crazy, physics breaking,brawl movie, however this compliments the tone of the movie rather nicely. This is a subtle movie, and it has a lot of heart, the action sequences focus less on trying to be big and explosive and more on showing a brutal, fairly realistic struggle that also sheds light on the mental state of the main character, in other words. The fights in this movie are not as flashy and stylized as other movies, this however did not detract from my enjoyment, because of the more tooth and nails style of the fights, it made them feel more like a struggle to survive than a choreographed martial arts show. As for the story, it is much more personal than you'd expect, instead of being focused on crime and criminals, which are certainly big elements of this movie, it's more about the main character's inner struggle about who he wants to be and how he wants to win his battles. This type of story wouldn't work without good actors. The performances are not award worthy, but they are enjoyable and you can't help but be excited to see what the characters do next. This is a straightforward, grounded fighting movie, with a personal story and good characters, not as stylized as other martial arts movies, but this fact adds to its tone and story, all in all, a well done, entertaining movie with an endearing message.
Man, I first caught wind of this flick last year when I saw it while
scrolling through Netlfix. Being a Keanu fan (and not ashamed to admit
that), I thought I'd give it a shot. Needless to say, I enjoyed the
hell out of it! I thought it was a fun, stylish character driven fight
flick that we simply don't get to see much of anymore.
Keanu plays Donaka Mark, a psychotic sadist who runs an illegal fight ring. He finds himself frustrated by the lack of "interesting" fighters and recruits Tiger (played by Tiger Hu Chen), a young and naive master of tai chi. What follows is an almost Faustian tale of Tiger's rise, fall and struggle to regain his former honour.
Maybe I make it sound a bit too grandiose, but it really is a damn good fight film. It has a solid cast, decent cinematography, well choreographed fight sequences and a strong enough script to carry all its action.
P.S. Fans of 'The Raid' might be interested to know that Iko Uwais has a cameo towards the end.
This film works on many levels and is not just an excuse for a lot of fighting. Keanu Reeves directs a tight plot with excellent actors all extremely well chosen. There is no flying about on wires or lengthening swords but there is a powerful message at the heart of this film and it is a lesson for China emerging once again as a world power. It is also a lesson at the heart of Chinese culture and Tai Chi. The film feels very slick and is filmed with an eye developed in Hollywood which is an interesting cocktail mixed with the Chinese actors and language - most of the film is in Mandarin but Reeves speaks English - to give a distinctive and interesting flavour. Reeves is the evil character symbolising corruption and a hunger for blood whilst the Man of Tai Chi battles with his inner demons to overcome his own loss of Chi.
For Keanu Reeves' directorial debut, it isn't terrible but not that great either. The strengths of this movie (and what most people watching it will care about) lie in the well-staged, well-filmed and well-choreographed fight sequences, as well as some decent cinematography. As this was filmed in China, there is also some great location shooting. However, the script is fairly lacking and simplistic in its approach. Movies like this have been done hundreds of times, and with a self-confessed kung fu aficionado like Keanu Reeves, I honestly expected better considering what he's been in over the course of his career. The plot is about Tiger, a student of Tai Chi, who is noticed by Keanu Reeves and drawn into an underground fight club. If I had to describe or compare it to something, it's like a cross between MORTAL KOMBAT, FIGHT CLUB and a reality TV show. In fact, Tiger's life after joining this illicit organization quite literally is put on display (mostly unbeknownst to him, though). This one innovation is what saves the movie from being utterly rote and formulaic, but then the plot is needlessly complicated by having a subplot involving a detective on the trail of Keanu Reeves' character, Donaka Mark. If there was any part of the movie that could have been cut it was that. It weighs the movie down, affecting the pacing and quite frankly they don't spend too much time developing that part of the narrative anyway. The real story is the somewhat cliché, but well-handled, arc for Tiger. Over the course of the movie, you can see him change from an idealistic student to a man on the edge, drunk off the power of his own body. Fortunately, he has a conscience in the form of his teacher who helps him to realize that a balance is needed between power and meditation. Acting-wise, nobody gives a spectacular performance (as could be expected), but there are a few that stand out as particularly bad. Unfortunately, Keanu Reeves is one of these. For some reason, he cast himself as the villain in his own movie and the performance comes off as very stiff. At the end, you do get to see him fight a little bit, but there was a noticeable difference in the way that fight was filmed compared to the other ones, probably because Reeves is not a trained martial artist. There was also a barely touched upon a romantic subplot that could have been done without. So, in conclusion, Keanu Reeves delivers in the fight department, but overall the movie isn't as fun as just going back and watching older martial arts classics.
This is an action movie. And even though Keanu Reeves might not be Iko
Uwais (who has a short appearance, too short if you ask me), even he's
made looking good fighting. This might actually be one of his better
performances (definitely in recent years). But the main role is played
by someone else. The Man of Tai Chi! And as that title suggests, this
man knows his Tai Chi.
Or so he thinks, because as with most good action movies, he's actually still learning. Fighting-wise and life-wise that is. The movie is predictable with a sub-police story to hold the rest of it together. It might not be the most interesting movie plot-wise, but it delivers where it should: You cannot fault the action on display here. There are some very amazing action sequences put together ... just sit back, watch and enjoy
Firstly, for a directorial debut, I think Reeves did well; his style
was confident and clean, for the most part. This was a long awaited
film, and like many of the films in which he acts, are a little
different in some way, not mainstream. Man of Tai Chi (MOTC) is a
Chinese film for the Western cinema-going public; an East meets West
and a synopsis of Eastern mysticism/martial art/Taoism and morality
tale. As such, I think it does exceedingly well. I enjoyed watching the
film and recognised from my limited experience of Chinese cinema a few
stylistic elements that were well used; ie the "clean" almost PG 13
style of fighting, no blood etc and the multi-layer aspect to a simple
story... you have a boy meets girl romance, a black and white moral
tale of good vs evil, a social commentary of old vs new China and the
difficulty for young people growing up, but also a quite exciting
action film with some rather brilliant fighting from the small in
stature but not in talent Tiger Hu Chen. Some of the fight scenes, and
the look of the film, were reminiscent of The Matrix, with a soupçon of
Johnny Mnemonic (Gibson-esque) but also had nods and deep bows to
Chinese films such as use of strobe and coloured lighting, long shots,
familiar venerable master and acolyte interactions etc. The dialogue
was minimal and not complex, often with subtitles in English and it's
almost Spartan pared back approach to the material belies the deeper
story themes that can be read into it. As a piece of Chinese cinema
aimed at the Western audience in order to advertise its potential
(Reeves is very involved in expanding the appeal of Chinese cinema, I
understand) and broaden its distribution and acceptance in mainstream
western cinema, it worked, to my mind. MOTC bridged the gap and like
the indomitable Jackie Chan's films made Eastern-style cinema
accessible to Western viewers but overall MOTC was less Western in its
overall look. I liked it but it had it's flaws; I felt it had some
pacing issues and I'm not sure whether variation in scene cut lengths
were deliberate to add drama but they didn't really work for me and I'm
not 100% sure they were intentional as one was so long it was almost an
error. Some of the CGI was very amateurish, and a few SFX felt a little
dated, but overall it was modern and cleanly done. I did NOT notice
wires in the some of the fight scenes, but apparently some viewers
have, which is a shame as I don't think there is any excuse for that in
today's cinema. Reeves himself was in front of the camera as well as
behind as Donaka Mark the dark and mysterious benefactor/puppeteer
who's back story and identity were rather ambiguous. He played the role
with creepy insidious control - made himself quite villainous, yet
tempting like the Devil himself, luring Tiger deeper and deeper into
his web of underground fighting, urging him to kill and forget his Tai
Chi master, from whom he was rebelling.. I think Reeves was good but
not great, he came across a little too "Bond baddie" - not quite bad
enough - with short, clipped one-liners and clichéd speeches and whilst
he was clearly a bad character, he was too one-dimensional to be truly
malign. He posed a threat but whilst you wanted Tiger to win (for the
sake of the temple) you didn't really invest in his relationship with
Mark. There were some really quite sinister scenes, however, and Reeves
played the character well enough to make his point, but I think he
could have equally left the role to someone else to play more
I enjoyed this MOTC, and I'm glad it saw it. I'd been waiting a long time though, and whilst had seen a lot of press had NO idea what to expect and wasn't disappointed. I was however unhappy that yet again a Company Films production had issues with distribution that it was impossible to see this film in a theatre in the UK as release was so limited as to be more or less non-existent.
Warning: Photosensitive viewers - there's a long fight scene which utilises strobe lighting.
For a debutorial direction, this is a great movie. Although I had some reservation when I was recommended to watch this movie I was impressed by the scenery, the unorthodox but well made sets and the use of soundtracks. As the movie progressed I expected the usual gratuitous violence and gore that most movies nowadays use to generate shock in expectation of being edgy or at least entertaining. But the minimal use of blood and beauty of fight scenes made me realize that the director wanted to tell a story instead of trying to sell a martial arts film. This makes the film honest and interesting. To see Keanu Reeves as the bad guy was brilliant. And being a oriental film it has sage advice too. Although it is an good entertaining watch worthy of 6 star rating the fact that it is directed by my favorite action hero, Keane reeves, gets it a 7 star rating.
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