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|Index||123 reviews in total|
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.
Surprisingly, Reeve's directorial debut is polished, lavish, and emotional pungent. I'm reminded of the emotional moral thread from Chronicles of Naria (2005). Unlike many martial arts movie that focus on a stereotypical two dimensional good versus bad plot where the protagonist is pure of heart and led to suffer to seek revenge evil, Reeve's is given the opportunity to play against type using his Matrix persona fighting skills and employing an evolving storyline that is much more layered like a Chinese box within a box. While the ending might have been less simplified and American cleansed, this movie exhibits a maturity, a clear quality of photography, a contemporary-themed and beautiful Chinese music.
HK Police detective Sun Jingshi (Karen Mok) obsessively investigates
ruthless wealthy powerful Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves) who runs an
underground fight club. Tiger Chen (Tiger Hu Chen) studies under Tai
Chi Master Yang. He is a meek delivery guy in his normal life. Donaka
offers him fights for money which he refuses at first. When the 600
year old Temple is under threat from developers, he needs money to fix
The great thing in this movie is the fight choreography. The fights are beautiful dances. It is extremely well done. There is a good character relationship between the teacher and student. It's a descend into the dark side that Darth Vader should have had. That's the good part of the movie. The bad parts are all the affectless acting led by the king Keanu Reeves. His directing debut is competent but shows a monotonous doggedness. He doesn't show much excitement other than the fights. The last fight does have some problems. It's not set up properly. Keanu Reeves needs to show his power before. There isn't much drama here but it's still worth a watch.
Two guys are fighting martial arts, one of them is defeated. A voice is
heard telling the victor to "kill him". He doesn't. A guy in a mask
shows up and kills the loser. In the locker room we learn that the
masked guy is Keanu and he now approaches the winner and kills him.
Turns out that this guy was a police informant and now that he's dead,
the police commissioner shuts down the investigation into some
underground fighting ring. But the female detective in charge of the
investigation keeps digging.
A guy named Tiger, who is the last student of some form of Tai Chi, practices with his master at a remote temple. He enters a formal, rule-based sports competition and does fairly well despite being mocked for practicing Tai Chi which isn't a fighting discipline. Tiger catches the attention of Keanu. So he has his people approach Tiger and take him to Hong Kong for a job interview with Keanu. The job is to fight. If he wins he gets cash, if he loses he dies. The only rule is that there are no rules. At first Tiger isn't sure, but when the authorities threaten to flatten the temple unless costly safety improvements are made, he is forced to accept. It also allows him an alternative to his exploitative work delivering packages.
The fights take place in some carpeted rectangular room with a large mirror at one end. Tiger has to fight guys with a variety of fighting styles. He also does well, earns lots of money that allows him and his family to live better. So he keeps training with his master, fighting for competition, and fighting for cash. But he's also getting more enraged. At the final competition match he ends up breaking the opponents leg and that gets him disqualified. When he goes to train, he confronts his master. He is more powerful than the master, but as the master says, power isn't control. That's when the master finally defeats him not by touching him but by manipulating Chi.
The fights become more flashy and difficult. Tiger is made to fight two guys at the same time. But the detective is also getting closer to Keanu. When, Tiger is ordered to kill the defeated opponent, he refuses and the police break up the operation. Keanu escapes but later shows up to claim the life that Tiger owes him. Tiger's final fight is against Keanu, as expected.
Man of Tai Chi is an interesting and unusual action movie. It is more profound than most of them, but the important lines are lost among lots of cliché lines and aren't handled well enough to stand out as they should. Tiger comes to his own only once he internalizes the idea that "I am nothing." Keanu also points out the key to entertainment--what people want to see is the loss of innocence. The Ying-Yang is prominently featured in this movie. And as the master points out at the end, the modern and the traditional can coexist. And this movie is such coexistence. The world of Keanu's character is modern, flashy, with fancy cars, the world of power. The world of Tiger is the old fashioned one, the one of (self) control. But the message here is not that one is better than the other but to find a balance. The end credits scene is a panoramic shot of a seemingly poor area of a city with large housing complexes, perhaps what happens when there isn't a balance.
With a movie like this of course it's the fights that attract the audience. And there's plenty of them. Too many I would say, so that the story becomes almost secondary. But the fights are entertaining. They aren't very long and feature neat wire-work. Not the usual flying across buildings type, but rather close quarter wire-work in mano-a-mano fights--flips, unlikely rotations, etc. Our hero, Tiger is a rather tiny guy with an awful haircut but still manages to defeat large muscular guys, sometimes on the basis of punches no less. It's always good to see Keanu, even as a role of villain, and he's a mean fighter. Not a good idea to make Keanu the villain because you root for him no matter what.
Man of Tai Chi is strong martial arts movie with a message buried beneath lots of cool fights.
Having just witnessed the awful Kung Fu Hero (Man) starring Tiger Chen
and produced by Keanu Reeves, I was slightly put off its star who I
felt didn't carry any star quality, had dodgy hair and didn't move any
better than a dozen great HK stars that deserve the push.
Then I saw the trailer for Man Of Tai Chi and opted to give him a second chance. I mean, it looked grand, and with their teaming on the Matrix films, I figured it would be a nice return to common ground for them both.
Well, finally, after 3 attempts, I made it through the whole thing.
On the positive side, I guess Keanu did 'okay' for his debut. It was nothing special, and there is a lot of questions regarding the typical Hollywood CCTV effect where cameras can be anywhere and edited in ways only the viewer could possibly see... but it was enjoyable enough.
I was so pleased to see HK stars Karen Mok, Simon Yam and Sam Lee on board as well as a few more, and of course the under used cameo from The Raid star, Iko Uwais - but there was still something missing.
Tiger Chen did a better job than family film Kung Fu Hero, but I just can not warm to the guy as a star. He is a great martial artist yes, but his moves are nothing special (although the editing didn't help), and that limp, lifeless hair drives me mad!
The fight scenes were, well - slightly boring if I am completely honest.
I wanted to like this, I really did, and no doubt I will watch it again, but boy was I expecting something else!
Mr. Reeves gets in on the action eventually, and is back to his wire grabbing nonsense seen many times in the Matrix films. You think with the amount of work they put in to removing the wires during action and fight scenes, that the actor wouldn't grab on to them so blatantly (for support I know, but come on).
Over-all, Man Of Tai Chi carries very little new. A couple of twists and decent performances from our Asian stars, but as usual, Keanu is as wooden as Jake-The-Pegs dirty middle leg.
Worth a watch? Of course. Worth mentioning to your friends? Only if the other option is a Nic Cage movie...
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