In Keanu Reeves directorial début, he plays a millionaire who streams illegal martial arts tournaments to the internet. But can he find that one special fighter that pushes his tournaments to the next level?
Although my main love is for the sci-fi genre, I guess my secondary love would be martial arts. As a younger film nerd I watched all of Bruce Lee’s films, including Game of Death II. That’s the film made up from cutting room floor scraps and body doubles, terrible film!. From there I moved onto Jackie Chan. My favourites films of his are the older classics which I saw first such as Police Story and Armour of God.
So it was with great interest I looked forward to watching the martial arts film, Man Of Tai Chi which also marked Keanu Reeves directorial début.
The story is a very simple one. Chen Lin-Hu works as a courier by day and in his spare time he trains Tai Chi with his shifu (Master) in a six hundred year old temple. Chen Lin-Hu enters a televised martial arts tournament and it is here that multi millionaire, Danaku, first notices him.
Danaku, as we discover in the beginning of the film, holds illegal fight tournaments. The only way to win one of these fights is to kill your opponent. These fights are streamed over the internet where rich clientèle place large bets on the outcome.
Chen Lin-Hu is called into an interview with Danaku. The millionaire pretends the job interview is for a security position but later reveals that he wants Chen Lin-Hu to fight for money in his tournaments. Chen Lin-Hu declines saying that would be against his mantra and dishonourable.
However Danaku isn’t going to be put off that easily and it is when Chen Lin-Hu returns home he finds that his temple is under threat from a new housing development. The whole place is to be torn down because it is considered to be unsafe unless someone can pay for structural repair work. It’s obvious who has organised this little set-up.
Chen Lin-Hu has no choice but to return to Danaku and accept his offer.
While Man of Tai Chi is a good solid martial arts film it’s not a great one. There’s nothing here to make it any better or worse than other previous offerings in this genre.
It was revealed earlier this year that Reeves and helped developed a unique camera rig that enable him to achieve unique and interesting camera moves without relying in expensive CGI effects. Unfortunately the camera rig was too big and expensive to ship out of the US and so he’s had to compensate.
The camera work is still fluid and cut together very well. This means following the course of the fights is easy and understandable. There is no fast paced editing to make it more exciting or as in most cases actually confuse you to what’s going on. The first few fights all take place in a well lit holding cell which also helps.
What about the fights themselves? Don’t worry, there is a lot of fighting. The character Chen Lin-Hu has problems controlling his Chi and as the film progresses, his fights become more and more violent. Also with each fight, the opponent is a master of a different technique ensuring that each fight is different and entertaining to watch.
Chen Lin-Hu is played by Chen Lin-Hu who worked with Keanu behind the scenes during his time working on The Matrix trilogy. Chen Lin-Hu can be seen during the château fight midway through the film, The Matrix Reloaded. He is the guy who dies last in the fight with a spiked mallet to the head.
Whilst it is obvious he is a physically fit martial artist, unfortunately he’s not a great actor. He is quite wooden most of the time and his range seems to to be normal or angry with nothing else in between.
And if were speaking of acting then we have to mention Keanu Reeves who plays the millionaire Danaku. Keanu comes across as Keanu. There’s nothing that sets himself as different from anything else he’s done. Although I must give mention the to climatic fight in which Keanu pulls off some great facial expressions which unintentionally made me laugh.
This review does come across as rather harsh but if you have a love of martial arts, then do give this one a watch. The story is simple and basic but it’s worth a viewing for the varied range of martial arts fights this film has to offer.