Action Movie Fanatix Review: Man of Tai Chi

Action Movie Fanatix review banner for Man of Tai Chi

No Rules.  No Mercy.  Pure Fighting.

Starring: Tiger Chen, Keanu Reeves, Iko Uwais, Simon Yam, Karen Mok

Director: Keanu Reeves

2013  |  105 Minutes  |  Rated R

“You are not a warrior, you are a rat.” – Keanu Reeves

Tai Chi student Tiger Chen agrees to compete in an underground fighting tournament organized by the treacherous Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves).

I had high hopes for Man of Tai Chi.  It seemed like a passion project for Keanu Reeves, who I have a lot of respect for despite him not being the greatest actor in the world.  Unfortunately Man of Tai Chi ended up being yet another run of the mill “forced to fight” movie in the already crowded genre.  The ever so slight alteration that is made is that the guy being “forced” to fight is actually starting to like it.  A bit interesting… I’ll give it that but it never goes deep enough to make this tweak mean anything.

If I’m completely honest though, I was most excited for the fights within Man of Tai Chi.  If the movie was chock full of awesome fight scenes, then who cares if the story is generic as all get out.  I had seen this proof of concept footage of a new camera rig that Keanu was using to film the fights of the movie.  Check it out:

After seeing that I pictured a constantly smooth moving camera with long take sequences of martial arts action.  What we got had some interesting angles but there were so many cuts that this amazing camera work was almost pointless.

To their credit, they do a good job of varying the different styles of martial arts on display.  The performers also very clearly know what they are doing.  A couple spots of super obvious wirework bugged me though.

Tiger Chen’s martial arts are on point.  His acting… not so much.  The acting across the board is pretty subpar.  Anytime Keanu Reeves is your strongest actor, you are probably not going to be getting any Oscar nods.  Keanu is more wooden in his role here than I’ve seen him in recent memory.  Again surprising since this seemed to be a project he was passionate about.

Regarding Tiger Chen… I always find it weird when an actor plays a character with their same first name.  It’s even weirder when it’s their exact same first and last name.  Can they not remember to respond to any other name but their own?  So weird.

It was cool to see Iko Uwais of The Raid fame.  His part is very small.  He’s one of Tiger Chen’s opponent’s for a single fight scene.  As with all the other fight scenes, it could have been so much better but it was still cool to see him.

That’s really the drum that Man of Tai Chi beats over and over.  It could have been better.  It could have been better.  It SHOULD have been better.  Keanu Reeves’ passion, the martial arts talent of those involved and those crazy camera rigs should have equaled something pretty cool and they just didn’t.  It’s hard to not be disappointed with the final results.


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