Keanu Reeves' directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi, is basically the anti-Kill Bill. Both movies are quilted together from their auteurs' favorite Asian action flicks, but where Tarantino's was overheated, Reeves' is elegantly iced. It's martial-arts mayhem with a touch of zen.
The film stems, however, not from an Asian flick but from a Hollywood hit that was heavily indebted to Hong Kong: The Matrix. The title character is played by Tiger Hu Chen, who trained Reeves for that movie, and the action choreographer is Yuen Woo-ping, who had the same job on the Wachowskis' trilogy (and also Kill Bill).
In fact this movie was conceived as a showcase for Chen, who plays a pure-hearted practitioner of tai chi with a name much like the performer's own: Chen Linhu, a Beijing deliveryman known as "Tiger" once he begins a side career as a fighter. Tiger means to prove that tai chi can be fierce as well as gentle, a mission he pursues over the objections of his otherwise apprentice-less teacher (Yu Hai).
Donaka stages illegal underground fights, for reasons never fully discerned by the HK police captain investigating him. (She's played by Karen Mok, outclassing the leads at every turn.) After seeing Tiger on TV, Donaka recruits him for his fight club, and soon, the man from Beijing is flying in regularly to battle various bruisers. (The movie treats Beijing and Hong Kong as if they're the Twin Cities, though in reality they're more than 1,200 miles apart.)
The champion who ultimately rejects the violence of his avocation is a familiar figure in kung fu flicks, and Reeves' movie doesn't really have anything to add; despite the high-tech, high-style touches, it's a fairly traditional affair.
Robert Abele of the Los Angeles Times called it "a movie streamlined to evoke the timeless zip of martial arts movies past" and praised the "refreshingly grounded and old-school kinetic" action. Sheila O'Malley, writing at RogerEbert.com, also praised the "thrilling immediacy" of the fight scenes: "you realize you are actually seeing these guys actually do this, as opposed to watching something pieced together later in the editing room". Dave McGinn of the Globe and Mail, in contrast, called the film "ambitious but generic" and filled with "stale conventions".
At this year's Toronto International Film Festival I landed an exclusive video interview with Reeves. While I thought about posting it sooner, I wanted to wait until his film was going to be in theaters. During the interview he talked about how the project came together, what it was like to make a movie in China where the government has script control, his thoughts on directing again, deleted scenes, what he collects, 47 Ronin, Passengers, whether he'll ever attend Point Break Live, what he's looking to do in the future, and more. Hit the jump to watch.
As the directorial debut of Keanu Reeves, Man of Tai Chi is a somewhat confused mishmash of filmmaking styles and concepts - but thankfully, one of those concepts is top-notch fight choreography. The script by video game writer Michael G. Cooney (Resident Evil 6, Devil May Cry 4) is actually a fairly well-conceived character drama that offers real progression and development - albeit, according to some pretty conventional martial arts movie tropes. But simplicity and convention prove to be effective, offering a tried-and-true roadmap for a film that is, in many other ways, utterly unsure of itself.
Man of Tai Chi shines brightest in its middle act, when Tiger embarks upon an opponent-by-opponent quest to kick-ass and take names, pitting his Tai Chi style against various other popular styles of fighting. Those sequences are probably the biggest selling point of the movie, thanks to legendary action director/fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix) and a combination of hardcore stuntmen and some real-life elite fighters. Indeed, as if playing a solo game of Street Fighter, Tekken - or any of the other popular fight-genre video games - the rapid progression of visceral combat between simplistic fighting caricatures (MMA guy, Tiger-style guy, etc.) is the type of basic payoff that fans of the genre expect.
Beyond that meat in the middle, however, there is very little quality film to be found. Man of Tai Chi (like its director) is the product of two worlds, but manages to be at odds with itself rather then finding balance. When showcasing sequences featuring Reeves and his underground fighting world, the movie looks every bit like a sleek Hollywood action flick; however, when it delves into Tiger's world (and the accompanying Asian culture story beats and themes) the movie takes on the budgeted look and overall style of a Hong Kong martial arts B-movie. It's a glaring (and strange) disparity - a sign that Reeves is still tinkering with various elements of filmmaking in an attempt to find a style and voice that is uniquely his own.
As for Reeves in front of the camera? It's unclear whether or not his stiff, deadpan delivery is an attempt at real characterization or unabashed acknowledgment and send-up of his own screen persona... but it's definitely strange. Stoic sociopath one moment, violent warrior the next - sprinklings of Buddhist musings and interior decorating - the character is just offbeat and strange down to his very name ("Donaka Mark"?). And sure, Keanu was a surprise with his martial arts abilities when The Matrix came out in 1999; but in a modern, post-Raid: Redemption world, his fisticuffs just don't cut it on the same level, which is readily apparent when actual martial artists and stunt experts like Tiger Hu Chen and Raid: Redemption star Iko Uwais are standing next to him onscreen. To that end, the movie's climatic fight is anything but...
Martial artist stuntman Tiger Hu Chen manages to give a good leading man performance. He creates the necessary complexity to make Tiger's journey into the heart of Tai Chi darkness a believable and compelling event, laced with an amount of subtly and control that is surprising for an actor whose trademark is physicality. Other than Chen and Reeves, it's only Karen Mok (Shaolin Soccer) who stands out from the herd of bruised and bloodied athletes, playing chip-on-her-shoulder detective Sun Jingshi. Though regulated to the movie's B-storyline thread, Mok has the charisma to make the deviations into her scenes worthwhile.
In the end, Man of Tai Chi is an okay way for fans of the genre to kill an afternoon, as they morbidly explore the possibility of Keanu Reeves, the action movie director. Reeves is not yet the bridge between east and west moviemaking he's aspiring to be, but considering this is his first time out of the gate of feature filmmaking, the result is only half-bad.
Kofi Outlaw (former Editor-in-Chief, 2008 - 2016) has a B.A. in writing and film studies. He then earned a Masters Degree in creative writing from The New School in NYC, where he first stumbled upon Screenrant.com when it was just a hobby blog owned by Vic Holtreman. Kofi recognized potential in Screen Rant as an outlet capable of bridging die-hard film fans and casual moviegoers, quickly rising to the position of E-i-C, and working with the rest of the editorial team, transformed Screen Rant from a hobby blog into one of the leading fan sites on the Internet. Since his time at Screen Rant, Kofi has continued to work in entertainment journalism - joining comicbook.com as Sr. Editor of Original Content. Contact and follow Kofi on Twitter @kofioutlaw.
Keanu Reeves has long wanted to make martial arts movie** Man Of Tai Chi**, but script issues, money issues and scheduling issues made it a five year-plus process. Finally it's on its way to Western audiences, and here's a new Apple trailer to prove it.
Man of Tai Chi was a Limited release in 2013 on Friday, November 1, 2013. There were 15 other movies released on the same date, including Ender's Game, Free Birds and Last Vegas. Additional information: . As a Limited release, Man of Tai Chi will only be shown in select movie theaters across major markets. Please check Fandango and Atom Tickets to see if the film is playing in your area.
Man of Tai Chi was released across all major streaming and cable platforms on Friday, September 27, 2013. Digital rental or purchase allows you to instantly stream and download to watch anywhere and anytime on your favorite devices. Available from various digital retailers including Amazon Video, iTunes, Google Play, Apple, Vudu and others.
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Man of Tai Chi (2013) is an upcoming action and drama movie. Its countries of origin are the United States, China and Hong Kong. Fans are anxiously waiting for this upcoming movie Man of Tai Chi (2013). Keep on reading the article to get more exciting information about the movie and the release date.
You can watch Man of Tai Chi (2013) on Netflix UK from anywhere in the world. It will be a Netflix UK superhit movie. Man of Tai Chi (2013) will be available to view from Wednesday, June 1st, 2022.
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