Keanu Reeves makes his directorial debut with a multi-lingual China-set fight film. Using Tai Chi in the form of a martial art and together with some great philosophy this turned out to be a solid performance all round. Both Keanu and Chen Lin-Hu gave it their all and it was great to see Keanu using his old skills again not quite the Matrix but he still kicks ass. Some of the fight scenes were a little short but amazing styles were used to try to break Tai Chi. Though the fight scenes are ably directed by Keanu Reeves in his helming debut, there’s just not enough of interest here to keep the run-time clipping along, and the actor’s own stiff presence in a supporting role does little to help this.
To be fair, one can tell the reverence that Reeves has for his pugilistic source material, and the first half of the film does hold promise that Man Of Tai Chi could have been a credibly entertaining martial arts movie. Famed action choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping brings several entertaining fight sequences to the table, and Tiger is an interesting protagonist, a guy with a chronic bad hair day and badass kung fu chops. Unfortunately, the rest of of the movie is let down by unnecessary subplots (Mok as an ineffectual cop) and some anti-climactic final fight sequences. Intent and execution are two vastly different processes, and one can detect the effort that went into making this movie. Ultimately though, there are too many flaws in Man Of Tai Chi for it to be considered more than a valiant first attempt.
And when things do start happening, it’s beautiful to watch. Yes, it does have a few stiff and/or formulaic moments but given the genre and it being a directorial debut, this was inevitable 😉 Also, in spite of the genre and the references/homages to other movies,Reeves’ directing style is original.He might have been inspired by the masters, but he doesn’t borrow from any of them. Like Tiger, Reeves created his own style: ironic,realistic, minimalist, sharp, punctual, complex,subtle, multi-layered. 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.
It was not a perfect film, but you have to notice how incredibly fluid and fast this guy is and in which proves Tai Chi is more than just a style of meditation and moves. However, this also comes with learning control and not letting yourself be moved by possessed anger. I will tell you the moves were authentic, real and had little wire work, barely any. They were real masters of Tai Chi Kung Fu, both Tiger and his master I can tell you that. Anyone that cannot see that has not been in front of this going on outside of a movie like I have. Remember his teacher said he had to slow down and empty himself. It is not all about fighting and speed. It is about using your Katas, focus for your entire movements and being able to transfer and use your Chi instead of just your physical body. In all of this and the lessons, it was a ten score.