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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on Man of Tai Chi

ManofTaiChiKeanu Reeves makes his directorial debut with the martial arts film Man of Tai Chi.  Tiger Chen (Tiger Hu Chen) is a student of the Ling Kong Tai Chi style, whose unique method of using the, traditionally meditative, martial art for combat attracts the attention of the mysterious Donaka Mark (Reeves).  Donaka uses his security company as a front for an underground fighting ring and offers to pay Chen to participate.  While Chen initially refuses, he reluctantly agrees after his master’s 600 year old temple is slated for demolition.  Chen quickly becomes a star fighter, though Donaka also pushes him to go down a dark path.  Meanwhile, Hong Kong detective Sun Jing Shi (Karen Mok) is trying to locate the source of the ring and shut it down, before it is able to completely destroy Chen’s life.

Man of Tai Chi can more or less be seen as simply a way to exhibit the martial art skills of Tiger Hu Chen, who is essentially playing a fictionalized version of himself in the film.  This film is the acting debut for Chen, who has previously worked as a stuntman, particularly in the two Matrix sequels.  The film features many well choreographed fight scenes, which progressively up the stakes.  These fight sequences are probably reason enough to watch the film, even if the story, that binds them together, is somewhat lacking.

This film is the first time I can recall Keanu Reeves taking on an antagonistic role.  The result is pretty much what you can expect from Keanu Reeves playing a villain, with many scenes having him sitting on a couch and staring blankly at a television screen.  I’m not saying that Reeve’s lack of charisma hurts the film, but his efforts at playing an evil character do come off as a bit laughable.  At the very least, Keanu Reeves has created a new catch-phrase for himself, as his character repeatedly says “you owe me a life” to Tiger Chen in the film’s final battle.

Man of Tai Chi is a USA/Chinese/Hong Kong co-production and indeed most of the dialogue in the film is in either Cantonese or Mandarin.  English is really only spoken whenever Donaka is on screen and I do have to add that it is a bit weird that there is an American character, in a film dominated by Chinese actors.  This can be practically explained by the fact Keanu Reeves is simply casting himself in his directorial debut.  However, Donaka’s presence in China isn’t really explained, other than a throwaway line, saying that he has been in the country since 1997.  The film also features a brief appearance by popular Hong Kong actor Simon Yam, who plays Sun Jing Shi’s superintendent.

Overall, I would say that Man of Tai Chi is worth watching for its many well-done fight scenes, which somewhat makes up for what the film is lacking in story.

7 | FAIR 

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).