Man of Tai Chi (2013) Review

"Man of Tai Chi" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Man of Tai Chi" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Keanu Reeves
Writer: Michael G. Cooney
Producer: Lemore Syvan, Daxing Zhang
Cast: Tiger Chen, Keanu Reeves, Karen Mok, Simon Yam, Iko Uwais, Ye Qing, Michael Chan Chi Chun, Sam Lee, Yu Hai, Steve Yoo Seung Jun, Michael Tong Man Lung
Running Time: 105 min.

By Dirac

I was really curious about this film, given that it’s Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut. The lead character, Chen Lin-Hu is portrayed by Tiger Hu Chen, an accomplished martial artist and stuntman. Combine all this with the fact that the cast is rounded out by Simon Yam and Karen Mok (plus a very cool cameo by Iko Uwais!), and you’ve got a film that I’m interested in seeing.

The story revolves around Tiger Hu Chen, a practitioner of Tai Chi who works a thankless day job. As he is struggling to make ends meet, he competes in televised martial arts tournaments in Beijing. His success in showcasing the true power of Tai Chi in this setting gets the attention of Donaka Mark (played by Reeves himself), who then makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Sun Jingshi (Karen Mok) and Wong (Simon Yam) are police officers investigating Donaka Mark’s crime syndicate.

The skills of Tiger Hu Chen really make this one worth checking out; the fights (staged by the legendary Yuen Woo Ping) are well-choreographed and intricate, and I think that without him as the lead this movie would’ve been somewhat bland. Also, I’m not saying that Reeves does a bad job in the acting department, but his delivery always comes off as creepy. I don’t know if this was by design or what, but it just comes off as being really weird. There are some moments of the film when I wanted to use some of his facial expressions as animated GIFs to use as avatars in forums.

Another awesome highlight is the cameo made by Iko Uwais during a short fight scene with the protagonist near the end of the film. He’s a rising star in Asian action cinema, and lemme tell you: go see Raid 2: Berandal while it is still in theaters.

In terms of production quality I also have to give Reeves credit for the film’s slick delivery. Its $25 million budged was well-spent making the sets and environments look very cool and modern, and it made me want to visit Hong Kong in the same way that Flash Point did. Also, I really enjoy the thumpin’ soundtrack.

To summarize, Man of Tai Chi a solid directorial debut for Keanu Reeves, and I really hope to see more from Tiger Hu Chen. I recommend it.

Dirac’s Rating: 7/10

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