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    July 27, 2013


    Man of Tai Chi is Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut which stars long-time friend and stuntman Tiger Chen. This martial art flick has been in production since 2008 and could be described as Reeves’ passion project. The movie follows a young tai chi protégé (Tiger Chen), in his quest to compete in the annual martial art competition, believing that he can bring tai chi into the stardom. But his opinion contradicts vastly than his master's advise that tai chi should not be used for glory and money. When the authority decides to close down the uphill temple belonging to his master, Tiger is left with not many choices. Meanwhile, Tiger is approached by a mysterious rich man known only as Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves) who runs a security firm in Hong Kong but turns out to be a cover for an illegal underground fighting ring. Sun Jingshi (Karen Mok) is a determined police officer who risk her life investigating the illegal ring but her superior (Simon Yam) is not keen due to lack of solid evident.

    Genre: Action/Adventure
    Classification: 18
    Release Date: 18 July 2013
    Running Time: 105 minutes
    Distributor: Universal Pictures
    Director: Keanu Reeves
    Screenplay: Michael G. Cooney
    Starring: Tiger Chen, Keanu Reeves, Karen Mok, Iko Uwais, Simon Yam

    Plot: "Man Of Tai Chi" marks the directorial debut of actor Keanu Reeves. Tiger Chen stars as a young martial artist who is recruited to take part in a no-rules underground fighting tournament. The tournament's leader, played by Reeves, is set on corrupting the young fighter.
    With some intriguing and high concept stories on his hands, it is up to Keanu Reeves to use these opportunity to deliver a good movie and along the process, to showcase his versatility too. But how did he perform on his first experience as a director? Neither good nor bad. There are probably a significant portion of this movie feels experimental. It is okay though. As a rookie director, Reeves does some great jobs around the movie. By offering great set-pieces and action choreography thanks to the ever-famous Woo Yuen Ping, the flick hits its own primary objective by executing some impressive hand-to-hand combats. These actions are well-paced, well-performed and well-handled to hinge on the main plot.

    This movie does not necessary have to opt for bloodbath actions even if it could go for it. I am glad that dark violence is not the priority, but the moral fiber embedded in it is. The difficulty of our hero to learn to control and to resist the temptation and subjected to materialism is important. Over the course of the movie, our hero struggles to help his family and his temple financially but ultimately lost himself into the subjugation of money and victory. I know many will tend to dismiss these but control and fluidity are the essences, the moral cores within the spirit of tai chi. Therefore, even if the plot fails to find much success (will talk about it in the next paragraph), tai chi still win.

    We can see some highly ambitious scenes but you can tell that, somehow, there are limitations to the vision it can go. Otherwise, as a whole, it is still a understandably mediocre product on the silver plate given Reeves' inexperience in giving it a clean cut editing. As I have said, the concept for this feature floats nicely to suspend, attract and expand into interesting story arcs beneath it. But writer Michael G. Cooney only expands those concepts within a very limited scope of refreshing elements to be offer while largely depends on those cliché to allow the movie to progress. In addition to that, the movie is somewhat drowned and suffocated by its own monotonous acting (the announcer is somewhat robotic) and cheesy scripts, excruciated by bad fillers (sudden growl by Keanu on the screen) and awkwardly romped anti-climactic nature of the third act (just look at Iko Uwais' facial reaction and you probably feel the same at that moment).

    In the end, Man of Tai Chi is a martial art drama that captures the spirits of its subject well with impressive action choreography, but also experiences shaky journey to please wider audience due to its monotonous acting, cheesy moments and mediocre writing.

    Story: 2.5
    Casts: 3.0
    Cinematography: 4.5
    Effects: 3.0
    GREEN-TEA-O-METER: 11.2/20.0
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