on October 4, 2013
I paid for this movie thinking this was something else entirely. I was a little worried after the opening scene that this would really suck; but boy was I surprised! My wife and I LOVED this movie!! It is a story of a man who wants to prove himself. It is a Kung Fu movie. It is a fight movie. It is a darkness trying to corrupt good movie. It is a success story of good over evil. If you want a good fight movie in the tradition of the 80s, but without the cheesy style, and if you like Kung Fu with TONS of fight action, and with a good moral story- then this movie is for you!
When I went into Man of Tai Chi, I was expecting a brainless but action-packed, simple-minded by fast-paced action flick. What I got was a brilliantly choreographed, stylishly filmed, brutally hard-hitting martial arts film with a surprising moral fiber.
But to be honest, I went in for the fights. Keanu advertised over 45 minutes of action scenes, and they did NOT disappoint. Choreographed by the *legendary* Yuen Woo-Ping, of Drunken Master, The Matrix, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame, these fights are realistic, violent, gripping, and surprisingly brutal. Each fight has a different tone and style, and the real highlight for me was to view all the different styles - Tai Chi, Wing Chun, karate, boxing, and more - come together into one glorious flurry of fists, knees, elbows, and feet. Tiger Chen (Chen Hu) has got badassery and style, and in his stunning two-on-one fight in a secret fighting ring on a freighter ship, he showed he has all the skills to become the next Jet Li or Donnie Yen. I see this guy going places.
The supporting cast includes the *fantastic* Iko Uwais (sadly underused), Karen Mok, who exudes control and determination, and a plethora of famous Hong Kong actors that you in the west wouldn't know, but to those living in China (like me), are the equivalent of an all-star Hollywood cast. They act like all Hong Kong actors act - over the top, almost caricaturing themselves, but hey, they get the job done.
Keanu Reeves is over the top in the finest possible way, exuding the kind of villainery that would make a Bond villain jealous. This, if I dare say it, is one of Reeves's best performances. He is a worthy foe, releasing his inner animal brilliantly, into a suave, dangerous, unpredictable baddo. His final fight with Chen should go down in the annals of kung-fu fights as one of the most stunning ever choreographed.
The cons of Man of Tai Chi, however, are too glaring and jarring to ignore. They include that phony type of dialogue and acting that is so popular in Hong Kong soap opera, a lack of emotion, a simpleminded screenplay, and some rote acting from some competitors. But let's face it, we're here for the fights, and director Reeves delivers in spades.
If you like action films, kung-fu films, martial arts movies, or all round stylish, fast-paced, and badass films, you will most likely love Man of Tai Chi. If you are looking for the next The Raid or Drunken Master, look somewhere else. But DON'T give this a miss. 4.5 elbow jabs! Er, stars.
P.S. Did anyone notice the *fantastic* use of music during the fight scenes by Keanu Reeves? Color me impressed, and here's hoping Reeves can make more movies in the future.
on September 28, 2013
The film centers on Tiger Chen (Tiger Hu Chen) who is a competition Tai Chi fighter. He is recruited by the wealthy and secretive Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves) to fight privately for him against a series of diverse fighters. His Chi becomes out of control. Donaka is also playing a cat and mouse game with the police.
The film consists of numerous fight sequences, some long, some short. It also has numerous scenes where Tiger has to cope with problems that require him to keep fighting. There is no anti-gravity fighting in this film. The film freely mixes Chinese and English and has subtitles in both languages. Unfortunately the font is white as is the garment background making some words impossible to read.
It was one of the more entertaining fight films I have seen.
Parental Guide: No f-bombs, sex, or nudity.
on November 28, 2013
If you have seen a lot of "films" <insert snooty-Hollywood-elite-sorta-accent here> and do not really like the genre, avoid this one. It stays true to its roots - action and more action. The fight scene choreography is good and the wire-work isn't over done. Different scenarios present themselves and, although some are typical, others are unexpected.
Don't expect any major work of art if that is what floats your boat. The photography is well done and the directing stays true to the plot. The older he gets the more impressed I become with Keanu Reeves and how he approaches his craft.
Just pure fun. Don't overthink this one. Enjoy it.
on October 9, 2013
Very interesting movie that expertly blended Western and Eastern thought mingled with exposing ancient and modern cultural norms and habits to come up with a meaningful flow and development that made sense and kept me focused throughout. A nice mixture of dialogue, action, and a theme that held together from the beginning to the end. The acting was above par and the action scenes rocked. Highly recommend.
on June 13, 2014
It seems that for years, fans of kick-flicks (like myself) had to import movies from Hong Kong in order to see good fights and stunt work, especially without that awful shaky-cam rock-video editing. Since prolific fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping (serving here as action director) made it possible for non-martial-artist-Hollywood-actors like Keanu Reeves (serving here as director) to look proficient in kung fu (with 1999's "The Matrix"), China has essentially fallen off the map in the world of exciting movie fights, mostly from insisting that nearly every scene of martial arts since 2000 be done with either ridiculous wires, artsy slow motion, or both (yes, I know there are exceptions). So a dozen years later the very same American actor who symbolized Chinese movie-fight downfall would come into China to film his own directorial debut and ironically deliver fight scenes that were more competently filmed and traditional than any I'd seen in Chinese cinema in several years. What the hell?
Reeves plays Donaka, a wealthy man in Hong Kong who hosts a closed-circuit reality show involving fighters he selects. He soon chooses a seemingly docile Tai Chi practitioner named Tiger (Tiger Hu Chen, "House of Fury", who's very good) as his next prospect. Tiger has been studying for a long time and is the last descendent of Master Yang (the always awesome but seldom seen Yu Hai, "Yellow River Fighter") and the Ling Kong Temple, which is currently being threatened by developers, which causes Tiger to eventually accept Donaka's offer. Complicating things further is officer Sun Jingshi (Karen Mok, "Black Mask"), who's after Donaka, but has been ordered off the case.
Thematically, this is the kind of movie that Nicolas Winding Refn ("Drive") might make if he tackled kung fu and made busier films. It wasn't until my 2nd viewing that I really noticed the dualistic struggle within Tiger. In the presence of Master Yang (who is concerned about Tiger's "chi"), he is calm yet impatient. While fighting for Donaka, Tiger is ferocious yet compassionate, noticeably more principled than those he's surrounded by. He has a choice to make. One method gets results, the other doesn't require them, and it's difficult to see what's better long term from a dualistic (yin & yang) point of view. Good form, Reeves!
Of the dozen-or-so fights, all but one are 1-on-1's, and all but two are pretty decent. Reeves and his crew used a new type of steadicam that aids in the fluidity of filming from different angles in tight spaces with continuous flow, so there's a unique look to much of the fisticuffs here. Editing's more of an asset than a liability, too. That being said, there's still something missing from the fights. Lacking impact, I suppose. I enjoyed them well enough, except for the two aforementioned brawls, where the crew completely forgot that they were trying to make good fight scenes and threw in some unnecessary strobe lights and wires. Oh, well, I can overlook that. What I can NOT overlook, however, is their handling of the cameo appearance by Iko Uwais ("The Raid"), his first outside of his native Indonesia. His presence is brief and adds absolutely nothing to the film. Bad form, Reeves!
The DVD from Anchor Bay has a nice widescreen picture with 2.40:1 aspect ratio and a 105 minute run-time. The only available language track has English, Cantonese, and Mandarin with English subtitles. Additional subtitles available in English (for the hearing impaired) and Spanish. I would definitely recommend this movie to either fans of fu-flicks, or to students of martial arts or Eastern philosophy. While the fights are not great, they're far from bad, and the story is interesting and well done. With just a bit of tightening up, this might've been a classic.
on April 7, 2014
Man of Tai Chi is a 2013 Chinese-American martial arts film directed by Keanu Reeves. Starring Keanu's real-life trainer Tiger Chen, it tells the story of a Tai Chi student bent on proving this style is more than just exercise - it's combat capable.
The storyline is a little tired. Tiger initially is working his way through the tournament circuit to showcase his theory but is soon approached by Donaka, the proprietor of an elegant, spectator-driven blood sport, and is offered a position in this world. Tiger's first reaction is to decline, advising that fighting for money isn't the Tai Chi way, but quickly changes his tune once the government threatens to commandeer his master's training temple in the mountains over its fire danger from disrepair. He has thirty days to get it fixed and this, you understand, is expensive. Cue the fight contract. I don't need to see anymore films where people have x-amount of days to come up with x-amount of funds. There are better ways to invoke heroics and passion in a protagonist, especially in the martial arts genre. That being said, the relationship between Tiger and his master played out well and for that I'll give the writers a little credit.
The cinematography is solid and enjoyable. This is a crisp film and houses some neat little bursts of original Chinese cityscape shots and environment ambiance, especially the fight locations - they were gorgeous. Were it not for the camerawork, I'd have spent the duration of Keanu's project staring off listlessly in between fight scenes. This carried a lot of the slack left behind by this shrug of a script and I was thankful for it.
The acting performances were so-so. I think Tiger did a fine job and I look forward to seeing his future works, but Keanu was dead weight and it made the movie awkward. Per usual, this is just another Keanu performance where Keanu is being Keanu and it was dissatisfying from top to bottom. He's stony and surly here, glaring throughout every scene and pushing his lines out as if they've some resistant MASS to them. This is obviously my amateurish opinion - I'm only a basement den movie watcher - but the dude reads one note and it's been that way for a long time. But some folks love Keanu and they'll probably love him here, too. He's just not my cup of tea.
The fight scenes were good. Not great, but worth watching, no doubt. Tai Chi is beautiful on its own and the sparring sessions between Tiger and Master Yang were invigorating to watch. As the film progresses the fights, of course, become incrementally more difficult for Tiger and he's tasked with sorting out a variety of styles to succeed against. Paralleling this climb is a slight nudge in the superhuman elements of martial arts. The bodies thrown start showing that wire-line, in-air loft and it becomes a bit unrealistic, but not egregiously so. I'd have preferred that it not dip into that realm of unbelievability but again, it didn't go too far. I'd recommend the film on these battles alone - they're absolutely worth a rental. Good stuff.
In the end, though, as a whole, I was underwhelmed. Man of Tai Chi is pushing two hours and a good chunk of that is spent following arcs that didn't excite me. There's some quiet semblance of a romance and we follow a detective, (Karen Mok - haven't seen her in awhile), as she pursues the sport criminally, neither of which threw hooks at me. But this is, at the end of the day, a fight film and in THAT arena, I think it does enough to garner a sit-down. I wouldn't recommend buying the film as the replay value, for me anyway, wasn't there. I'd rent it first.
And I thank you for your time.
on March 13, 2016
This was actually a good movie. Keanu did a respectable martial arts movie. If I recall correctly the movie was either criticized on the states or maybe it flopped financially. I suppose it didn't do well overseas, which is interesting due to the large Chinese/Hong Kong audience it seemed to be marketed towards. I really think it was panned b/c it was Keanu's attempt to escape the yoke of the Hollywood system that had pretty much abandoned him until John Wick. The Hollywood system is like a gang...blood in blood out--you're almost lucky if they forget about you considering some weird gossip that I won't get into here. Anyway it's worth a watch and yes their are subtitles, but don't let that deter you. Watch it when you're folding laundry or some such thing as that so you can stay mildly engage with the screen.
on October 23, 2013
To be honest, there isnt much of a plot, nor a story here - the usual rehash of "street cop uncovering an underground fight club through the help of a civilian martial artist, while going against corrupted officers and rich tycoons." Even the story behind "Tai Chi" wasnt as deep/profound as I would expect.
But why the 4-stars?
- Good fight scenes (albeit, the final fight between Donaka and Tiger had much to be desired - it wasnt as realistic as the other scenes)
- Nice Kung-Fu choreography (particularly Tiger's practice time at the Temple)
- Cute girl (yeah, Tiger's girlfriend was kind of cute)
- Reasonable price, at only US$12.99
So, if you are expecting something the likes of "Crouching Tiger," you'd be sorely disappointed...
BUT, if you are expecting something "pass the time"-type of B-Class martial art movie, you wont be disappointed.