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Man Of Tai Chi– Movie Review

Submitted by on November 3, 2013 – 8:58 amOne Comment

Man of Tai Chi, the directorial debut from Keanu Reeves, is good, not-so-clean, campy martial arts fun. It’s certainly nothing revelatory, but Reeves and screenwriter Michael G. Cooney pack in enough stylish visuals, plot (too much, actually), and even thematic development (East vs. West, tradition vs. modernization) to keep the movie entertaining even when the fists aren’t flying (which is rare, anyway).

Tiger Chen (Tiger Chen) is a delivery boy in a central Chinese city, and the lone successor to a centuries-old form of Tai Chi. He disagrees with his master about the benefits of power and using Tai Chi as a martial art. Tiger enters a fighting tournament, where he catches the eye of Danaka Mark (Reeves), a wealthy man who runs an underground fighting ring looking for “the ultimate warrior.” Tiger initially resists joining, but agrees to fight when he needs the money to save his master’s temple. But over time, Tiger learns to love the power he wields, as Mark demands more dangerous fights.

The fights, of course, look amazing. A battle in silhouette with strobe lights is absurd but undeniably cool. The Street Fighter-like parade of international stereotypes who come to battle Tiger is similarly silly but cool. In fact, that describes a lot of the movie. (And Mark’s Mortal Kombat cry of “finish him” adds to the video game atmosphere.)

Man of Tai Chi also might present Keanu Reeves’ Reevesiest role ever. His maniacal laughter and alternating deadpan and animalistic screams are high camp.

The film is actually a nifty little portrayal of modern China. Early on, the camera casually picks up on the many settings of the country: a run down urban apartment, a poor but happy suburban family, a rural temple… and the one-percenters who watch death fights from their perfectly appointed TV rooms. This set dressing becomes not-so-subtle later on, but is still interesting.

There are a few too many extraneous plot lines, including the legitimate fighting tournament (which really seems unnecessary after Tiger joins the underground fighting ring), the struggle to save the temple, the true nature of Mark’s business, and the obligatory romantic interest.

Did you see Man of Tai Chi? What did you think?

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