When it comes to martial arts films, I’m a purist. I don’t ask for much. Sweet moves, someone getting punched in the face, and maybe a montage or two. Everybody loves a good montage. When I found out I would be reviewing a film titled Man of Tai Chi, I wasn’t sure how exciting it would be. Then I found out Keanu Reaves played a bad guy and all I could hope for was someone punching Keanu in the face. What could be better?! However, I’m aware of what Tai Chi is and it’s not a delicious noodle lunch like your probably thinking. It’s a martial art. It’s not just any martial art though. In fact it might be the lamest martial art in the world. It’s more of an exercise old people do in the park, kind of like yoga. I knew this was going to be a night of ups and downs.
I’m willing to give everything a chance, especially for something like Keanu Reeves getting punched in face. The first thing I noticed when the movie started was that it reminded me of Chinese Fast and the Furious. Immediately, I noticed this film was very flashy; full of bright lights and bright neon. It began with a tough and brutal fight scene. No complaints here, what’s after that? Oh, you’re going to throw in some loud music and pretty girls? Neat! I love these things! People working in an office building? Wait. Is this the right movie? Oh ok, Asian guy driving a delivery truck? Slightly stereotypical but I’ll roll with it. When is this going to pick up? And he found a temple. This is when I literally watched two grown men push each other for nearly twenty solid minutes.
This is Man of Tai Chi. Not exactly, what I pictured as an entertaining martial arts movie.
This is where we meet a guy named Tiger (Tiger Hu Chen). He’s small, has hair that covers most of his face, and doesn’t say much. At this point, my hopes and dreams were dwindling. Somehow, somewhere, someone must have heard me thinking about performing seppuku and the speed of the film changed drastically. After this terribly slow start, Tiger became a martial arts beast. Flipping, kicking, breaking arms, using flying knees, elbows…talk about ups and downs.
So basically, in this film, this guy Tiger wants to prove that Tai Chi is awesome. However, he doesn’t really use Tai Chi but maybe like five times in the film. The rest of the time he fights like every other rough and tumble martial artist, with a mix of literally everything. This is good because a film composed of Tai Chi would be dreadfully slow.
Tiger meets a guy named Donaka Mark(Keanu Reeves) and Donaka allows Tiger to fight in an underground fight club for him. Exactly what you think is going to happen happens, and Tiger learns the fame of winning fights feels pretty good. He starts to blow off his Tai Chi temple we saw in the beginning. Did I mention he’s trying to save his temple from being torn down? Yeah, it’s one of those stories. One second he wants to be the good guy, the next he’s the bad guy. I found it really hard to understand.
Eventually, Tiger completely rejects his Tai Chi peace party and joins the dark side, fighting to the death for Donaka. Ultimately, he faces Donaka like some sort of Mortal Kombat style final stage boss, and there is some awesome Tai Chi super power action.
Truthfully, after trying to keep the progress of Man of Tai Chi straight in my head, I don’t think I would ever watch it again. Watching Tiger during the meat of this martial art sandwich, he reminded me of Ong Bak. He is impressive, but the plot was detrimental, almost silly. Keanu truly masters his overacting abilities and takes a character that could be sinister and cold to an area of overdramatic emotion he seems familiar with. The nail in the coffin was when the robotic Keanu fought Tiger. I had to keep myself from humming the Bowser theme from Super Mario. Maybe if they had more shooting balls of fire from their hands I’d be less depressed after watching this film. Probably not.
I give Man of Tai Chi 1 “Haduken!” out of 5.
by Jason Burleson