The Man of Tai Chi – 2013
Director Keanu Reeves
Starring Tiger Chen, Keanu Reeves, Iko Uwais, Karen Mok, Simon Yam
Screenplay Michael G. Cooney
While filming The Matrix, Keanu Reeves met Tiger Chen for the first time as he taught him the martial arts. While I am not an expert on the types and ways of the martial arts, it’s a pretty good bet that the style being taught was Tai Chi. Since those times they’ve kept things pretty close. His first attempt at direction is an attempt at explaining the essence of the art.
As a story, The Man of Tai Chi feels like an encyclopedia entry. The acting is wooden all around, but don’t worry, Reeves lowers his level to not make the rest of cast feel out-of-place. Even so, it still has a fair amount of respect for the different arts of fighting. I couldn’t tell you anything about them once the credits rolled, but these are stunt people and real fighters really fighting. There’s not a lot of holding back.
The story is only a vehicle. Donaka Mark (Reeves) runs a fighting ring. He just got through offing one of his fighters who was becoming an informant. He now has an opening. Tiger Chen, a solitary student of Ling Kong Tai Chi style, wins a local tournament and catches Mark’s eye. He survives an first “interview” and then falls into a trap set for him. There is plenty of fighting, more bad acting and then a big final fight. There is even a couple of “Finish Him” moments.
I can’t say if this is for you or not, but it treats the art of fighting with a certain passing respect. For that, I am thankful. Or not.
(**1/2 out of *****)