Man of Tai Chi Reviews
Yes that's your plot right there, a simple humble man is lured into an illegal underground fighting ring with the promise of getting paid lots of dosh. He needs this dosh to help save his Masters temple which is in ruin. The reason he was chosen is because he is a skilled fighter in the art of Tai Chi which is unusual. This ring is run by a mega rich Keanu Reeves and his entourage who sets these fights up for other mega rich people to enjoy, oh and the cops are after them too. So its the most unoriginal overused plot formula you could possibly decide on.
I gotta be honest most of the fights in the film aren't very vicious or hard hitting. They all of course look fantastic and are well choreographed but they all come across like a martial arts ballet, a rehearsed spectacle rather than some gritty illegal underground fighting ring. You can clearly see that moves aren't making full contact at times and when they do its obvious its not real. You can see them going through their fight routine basically, it doesn't feel real or in any way brutal.
Another issue I had was the fact Tiger is a pretty small slim fella, he's not exactly the type of person you'd think could knock out all these other fighters. I know a persons size doesn't necessarily mean they can't fight but there really isn't that much of Tiger and some of the other western fighters were pretty well built!. The black fighter he comes up against was three times his size! height wise and muscle width wise.
I hate to use this term but the fights do feel like a videogame at times, each fighter having their different styles and outfits, its all very cliched and feels like 'Bloodsport' but without the blood. I guess the only difference with this film is the fact its not some big tournament ala Mortal kombat. Although that being said, the lines 'finish him!' and 'fight!' are used on a regular basis sooo.
The one thing that did have me at polar opposites was the use of Keanu Reeves. Reeves directed the film so he's given himself the tasty bad guy role, OK that's understandable, I would do the same. But was Reeves right for the role? debatable, I think this is the first time I've seen Reeves as a bad guy which was a nice fresh change and in all honesty he's actually quite eerie and cold so kudos. What I didn't like was the utterly predictable hokey ass finale where Tiger ends up fighting Reeves who is of course some master fighter. Its very clear Reeves can't fight all that well as his movements are very slow, heavy handed and jerky. He can do some of the moves sure but its obviously not fluid like a true martial artist and this simply makes the final fight a bit of a joke. Tiger has defeated all these top grade super fit fighters but he struggles against Keanu Reeves...ahem.
There is nothing here you haven't seen before really, a simple traditional man corrupted by an ultra wealthy bad guy, corrupted by power and money...but not girls this time. Will Tiger see the light and follow in his masters footsteps? what do you think. Lots of fancy visual flair but a bit shallow in the long run.
Very Good Film! I must say, this movie portrays everything Tai Chi teaches us about ourselves, our inner demons, and how easy it is to loose yourself once you achieve Power. How Control is even more important then simply having great power. Although being promoted as a 'kung-fu movie', Man of Tai Chi is much more than that. It's a meditation on many aspects and trappings of today's life. But none of them are spelled out in neon letters; it's up to the audience to recognize them. All in all, it's like... a Chinese menu: there's something in it for everyone, but some of the dishes are not everyone's favorites... The movie's greatest strength was the amazing cinematography of each action sequence. I love how I can identify each style of fighting and enjoyed the clarity of each strike, grab and throw. I'm glad its not deep which is what i like in an action flick, because i don't want to work that hard when i'm already too exhausted just following the punches thrown in this film. But its a joyride and a spectacle to savor from beginning to end.
Tiger Chen is a Tai Chi student who is rather rebellious and uses Tai Chi to fight despite his master's concerns. When the temple where he studies get threatened from modern redevelopment, he fights in an underground fight club to get money the temple needs. However he soon realizes that his employer has other negative motives.
Man of Tai Chi follows a young martial artist's whose Tai Chi skills lands him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club. Where to begin? That's a tricky question since I can't think of a single thing that was done right in the script. The protagonist is just a plot device for fight scenes to occur. He's is specially created to have little conflict as possible thus meaning little for him to conquer. Sure the plot does hint the protagonist is dangerously becoming more brutal with every fight, but touches upon such conflict with little importance. Every supporting character is one dimensional. Supporting characters have little to no effects on the plot. Only serving as conveniences in case the hero does not know what to do. The closest a supporting character even comes to affecting the plot is a police woman whose terrible at her going after the antagonist. For half of the film the police woman doesn't remotely come close to reaching her goals. When she does something good she fails to capture the criminal she was after. The script has no life of any kind assembling as much formulaic, overused, outdated, and cliche plot points the writers could think off. The plot for Man of Tai Chi is poorly constructed and its script that has no sign of soul.
Now time to touch upon Keanu Reeves both as an actor and a director. As an actor he gives a performance that's even worse than his selected cast. Leading actor Tiger Chen is wooden, Karen Mok is a plank, Simon Yam is as good as a bark, and Keanu Reeves is lifeless as oak. None of the actors give any kind of performance that demand your sympathy. With wooden acting it detracts from the many fight scenes with no energy provided by the lifeless actors. Keanu Reeves knows how to film a fight scene which is why all of them are easy to view. Except what Reeves sacrifices as a storyteller is quality of the story. Now this wouldn't be a problem if it abundant of fight scenes were any good. Every single fight scene looks the same and offers no variety in the kind of fight we see. Most of the fight scenes are one on one playing out the same. The hero is overpowered in the beginning, slowly begins to get an advantage in the middle, and changes things in his favor near the end. The only change up in the formula is a one on two battle which suffer the same formula. Fight scenes that repeat the same formulaic beats is very repetitive no matter whose fighting with what techniques. Keanu Reeves seems to have a big ego. He plays the villain so to makes sure he gets across he is the villain thus why in his only lengthy fight scene Reeves only get hit one time and is defeated by deus es machina. Not to forget rising star Iko Uwais (who I called the next Jackie Chan) is wasted in his small role. Uwais doesn't get to fight or act in his extremely small part. The most he does is run around chasing after Tiger Chen and telling him to fight him. A bad use of good talent much like Keanu Reeves resources on making this film.
Man of Tai Chi is one of the most soulless Martial Art films ever made. The script lacks any shred of inspiration and its actor don't show signs of life in their performances. Keanu Reeves failure in showing any kind of competent directing skill will make him be know for now as The Man Who Killed Tai Chi and possibly his directing career.
See it for the fights, they are excellent. The rest of the film.... eh. Minus the end fight (sorry, spoiler), if Reeves had had Nic Cage in his role it would've succeeded better. But then again, when was the last time he played a villain? Guess he had to direct himself in such a role to get it done.