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Review: Man of Tai Chi (TIFF 2013)

Man of Tai Chi (TIFF 2013)
09.11.2013
100%
6 10

PLOT: A young Tai Chi master (Tiger Chen) is recruited by an enigmatic multimillionaire (Keanu Reeves) to fight in a series of brutal underground fights, where he pits his traditionally peaceful methods against a series of brutal opponents.

REVIEW: MAN OF TAI CHI is an intriguing debut for Keanu Reeves as a director. A Chinese B-action flick, it's an odd choice to be sure, but we shouldn't forget that he's no stranger to martial arts, having memorably fought in the MATRIX films (and the upcoming 47 RONIN). Re-teaming with fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, Reeves has crafted an affectionate homage to vintage Hong Kong action thrillers, that's jam-packed with action.

Reeves- however- is not the star of MAN OF TAI CHI. Rather, he plays the baddie, Donaka Mark, his first role as a villain since THE WATCHER. The hero here is played by stuntman Tiger Chen, who worked with Reeves on THE MATRIX. While he's probably not the most charismatic of martial arts stars (he opts for the seriousness of a Jet Li, rather than the goofiness of Jackie Chan or the swagger of Donnie Yen), it can't be denied that he's a great on-screen fighter. Tai Chi isn't often thought of as a martial arts used for combat, but Chen kicks plenty of ass with it, giving the fights a different flavor from the usual brutal way guys like Yen or Li fight. His character is pretty much the standard “hero” part, with him initially being swayed by the promise of easy money, although if you've ever any doubt that Tiger is going to emerge the hero you haven't seen many kung-fu flicks.

Reeves himself has often been (unfairly) criticized as being a stiff actor, and I can't say he's done himself much of a favour here with his role as the baddie Donaka Mark. Throughout the film, I couldn't tell whether Reeves was intentionally playing the part in a hammy way, or if he was being sincere. Suffice to say, playing the bad guy does not come easily to Reeves, although he acquits himself well in the fight scenes.

Which brings us to MAN OF TAI CHI's main selling point- the fights. I'm happy to say that whatever the movie's shortcomings are in the way of plot or acting, it more than makes up for them in the dozens of fights. Reeves, with Woo-ping, stages them all in an exciting way, and never opts for too much frenzied editing or close-ups. All of the fighters (which include THE RAID's Iko Uwais) have a ton of ability, so Reeves doesn't have to cheat with the way they're shot. Even when Reeves himself fights, he never protects himself too much with quick-cuts, although it does feel like a few of his movements were speed up in the final brawl.

Apparently, MAN OF TAI CHI is getting a limited IMAX release, and it would be nice if people got to see it that way, as the fights are so elaborate they deserve to get something more than a VOD release. Sure, it's often cheesy, and even tacky, but when the actors are fighting it works. Luckily they fight a lot . It's more BLOODSPORT than ENTER THE DRAGON or IRON MONKEY, but it gets the job done, and will hit the sweet spot for action fans.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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3:34PM on 09/11/2013
gonna see this mainly because Keanu is a villain. and you gotta support the dudes directorial debut
gonna see this mainly because Keanu is a villain. and you gotta support the dudes directorial debut
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3:24PM on 09/11/2013
That's good enough for me. There really aren't enough films out focusing on well choreographed fights like this, so it will be a treat. I don't expect good acting or even a great story. As long as the fights are good, that's good enough for me.
That's good enough for me. There really aren't enough films out focusing on well choreographed fights like this, so it will be a treat. I don't expect good acting or even a great story. As long as the fights are good, that's good enough for me.
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2:19PM on 09/11/2013
I honestly wasn't expecting much of a plot or script from a flick like this. It's great to hear that the fight scenes are good. That's all I really expect out it.
I honestly wasn't expecting much of a plot or script from a flick like this. It's great to hear that the fight scenes are good. That's all I really expect out it.
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1:22PM on 09/11/2013
So it's kinda like Tekken the Movie? I liked that one.
So it's kinda like Tekken the Movie? I liked that one.
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8:03AM on 09/11/2013
I'm glad to see a slightly positive review. This seems it's going to be reviewed a lot like The Protector was. Not very good, but that movie was fantastic. I like to see real fighting, not Crouching Tiger, or Hero, or Fearless style. To me those are the downfall of good kung-fu movies. Everyone talks how beautiful those are, but show me some throw down over story in my kung-fu any day. The old movies are great because the stories are all so similar, but the fights are different. Can't wait to
I'm glad to see a slightly positive review. This seems it's going to be reviewed a lot like The Protector was. Not very good, but that movie was fantastic. I like to see real fighting, not Crouching Tiger, or Hero, or Fearless style. To me those are the downfall of good kung-fu movies. Everyone talks how beautiful those are, but show me some throw down over story in my kung-fu any day. The old movies are great because the stories are all so similar, but the fights are different. Can't wait to see this!
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7:28AM on 09/11/2013
Saw this two days ago, the 6/10 is right on the money. Movie is well directed by Reeves. Fight scenes good, sometimes really good. And I liked Tiger Chen as main character. BUT the story is so damn predictable.
Saw this two days ago, the 6/10 is right on the money. Movie is well directed by Reeves. Fight scenes good, sometimes really good. And I liked Tiger Chen as main character. BUT the story is so damn predictable.
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