Man of Tai Chi - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Man of Tai Chi Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 31, 2014
The first film of 2013 set in the Far East starring Keanu Reeves, his second Asian film came out a month later (in the US). This film is based loosely on the real life events of the main lead Tiger Chen (yep that's his real name). Presumably the story is similar to his actual life in the sense of trying to show or promote how Tai Chi can be a martial art, not that he entered an illegal underground fight to the death circuit. Or maybe he did who knows.

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.
Super Reviewer
February 5, 2014
No rules. No mercy. Pure fighting.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ August 15, 2013
A wickedly cool and visually dazzling martial arts thriller. Director, and Co-Star, Keanu Reeves delivers a fierce and sensational directional debut filled with spectacular fight sequences. Reeves does not give a great performance at all, in fact its one of his worst but he does deliver in some weird way and does sell the bad ass side of his character well and this is a brilliant effort for him as a film maker and shows he can have a promising career as a director. Tiger Chen is very compelling in his role and demonstrating outstanding physical commitment to the action scenes. It's stylish, smart, gripping and action-packed. One of the best and coolest martial arts action flicks since The Raid.
Super Reviewer
½ February 27, 2014
Keanu Reeves steps into the director's chair for the martial arts film Man of Tai Chi. The story follows a competitive fighter who's recruited to join an underground fight club due to his unique Tai Chi fighting style; but unknown to him the club has a secret agenda. While the fight choreography is pretty good and adds some excitement to the film, the plot's rather cliched and trite. And there's a change in tone at the end (where the fights become mystical) that doesn't quite work. But despite its problems, Man of Tai Chi is still a fairly solid action film.
Super Reviewer
November 22, 2013
Fight scenes were good, most of the movie is pretty average. great to see keanu back but this one is lacking something.
Super Reviewer
½ August 29, 2013
"Man of Tai Chi" marks Keanu Reeves directorial debut a questionable one given Reeves hardly boost confidence from audiences expecting something good. Let alone his few films that have received positives raves from both fans and critics can't make up for his more noticeable misfires his resume. If Reeves directorial debut proves anything is he substitutes an abundance of fight scenes as an actual story and failed to learn from past mistakes.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ October 2, 2013
Keanu Reeves jumps into the director's chair following a few other star actors with 'Man of Tai Chi'. It's a pretty successful martial arts film when it comes to the choreography and fighting styles. However, it takes a few steps back with the storyline about an hour and ten minutes in and, interestingly enough, Reeves acting. Tiger Chen might get the label as the next big martial arts actor to follow Tony Jaa, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, etc...but he's not expected to wow in front of the camera in his first major film. Reeves however should have more of a story behind his overlord crime fighting boss gimick. I thought at times they tried to be too cautious. It was more of a PG-13 film than rated R. I was confused when the story took a turn from 'underground crime boss Keanu Reeves who just wants to see people fight to the death' to just 'likes turning innocent fighters into killers for the joy of ruining someone's life.' The cross from English to Chinese was a little distracting. Reeves overplayed his part just a tad. We didn't quite get the depth behind his organization or character as we should be allowed. What really keeps this movie better than average though is Tiger Chen and the fighting.
August 13, 2015
It's kind of an indicator that I've had a slow week movie-wise when Man of Tai Chi was the second best movie I watched (out of 9). It's not terrible, it has some good action scenes and a competent story, but nothing of any note to remember. Much better than Reeve's recent 47 Ronin (which he didn't direct at least), which I hated.
½ October 23, 2014
I did not know Keanu Reeves was the Director, until just now, WoW. It was presented well, a fairly well-balanced performance.
June 30, 2014
This movie was ok as far as martial arts movies go...The best part of the movie is having The Man--Keanu in the movie...
½ January 12, 2014
A fun martial arts film that doesn't stray far from the HK beat-em-up genre while delivering a few above average fight scenes. The visuals are creatively managed with Reeves acting more in an ornamental capacity but with a strong finish.
½ December 23, 2013
Sitting through half an hour's worth of movie and then turning it off and not feeling bad about it is never a good sign.
November 4, 2013
Keanu's directorial debut is pretty impressive, and it was nice to see him play a bad guy for a change.
½ October 26, 2013
I know Tai Chi!

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.
August 23, 2013
This was pretty good. A lot of good ninja-ry. They abduct a guy and pay him to fight. He starts to lose a sense of himself as the want to make him into a killer. Keanu Reeves was a bad ass ninja in this too.
August 11, 2013
Could have been great, Ong Bak and many other movies have already went there (theme wise) but still entertaining!
February 4, 2016
An excellent martial arts film.. Big applause for Reeves..
October 9, 2015
Keanu Reeves mostra que é tão bom diretor quanto é ator. Embora tenha algumas cenas de lutas interessantes, a história é muito fraca e sem graça.
August 22, 2015
Overall this was a very good directorial debut, a very good martial arts movie. The skill displayed, the choreography of the fights, the camera work, the score and even the sets work together really well to give the viewer an entertaining experience. We get a bit of an education about Tai Chi and Tiger Chen delivers pretty well for a fighter. My only criticism is about Donaka Mark. I didn't feel he came to life as a villain until towards the end of the movie. I loved Keanu Reeves as the bad guy Donnie Barksdale, so I was expecting the same kind of stellar performance. I was quite disappointed and I think it's mostly due to the writing of the character. He appeared as cold throughout the movie, especially towards Tiger; and I feel the character would have had a lot more flavour to it, if he was portrayed as cunning and manipulative, befriending Tiger, making him think he truly had his best interest at heart. It would have explained the shock and horror on the fighter's face at the beginning of the movie, when Donaka finishes the other fighter off. There are also a couple of shots of Donaka, that are from behind; I also feel that Keanu Reeves, as a director, could have added flavour to Donaka if the camera looked at him from the side, thus allowing us to see his expression. Other than that, I have really enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to any martial arts fan.
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