Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut, in contrary to its insipid promos, proves to be a solid watch for a variety of reason. The film never takes itself too seriously. The action sequences are choreographed with finesse and vitality. The performances by the lead characters are just as good as they can be. Keanu Reeves’ presence as the chief protagonist and the gradual twists and turns in the screenplay keep you hooked. Most importantly, the film stays grounded in its limitations and never tries to go somewhere beyond its reach. The setting is clear and leaves no room for any doubt in the narrative. The finale is fitting and though the wirework in many of the action sequence shows, leaving a few gaping holes, the climax is satisfying. I personally would have liked a lengthier fight sequence but what we get is good enough.
The story revolves around Chen (Tiger Hu Chen), a master Tai Chi fighter who is witnessing his world quickly falling apart. He is trying to save his master’s existence and the martial art form of Tai Chi against some ruthless corporate onslaught. But as the pressure surmounts and his needs increase, he is provided with an alternate and lucrative source of income by Donaka Mark (Reeves). Chen joins his underground fight club to earn the big buck but what he doesn’t know is that he has become a character artist in an elaborate show that Mark has been hosting and that the Law enforcement authorities have been trying to put down. Soon his own evil self starts tearing out through his poised self and Mark leaves no stone unturned to utilize it. What is left to be seen is what happens of Chen and Tai Chi?
The basic premise is tried and tested but yet convincing enough to seamlessly sew in the action sequences. Once the fights take center stage, the film starts galloping. The best thing about, Man of Tai Chi is the fact that it doesn’t waste time on immaterial stuff and quickly gets in the groove. The performances by Reeve and Hu Chen gives the film enough believability and for that matter credibility. Chen looks the part for the majority of the runtime and even though he doesn’t have the charisma and screen presence of his predecessors like Jackie Chan, Jet Lee or even Donnie Yen, he carries the role well enough to extract applause. Reeves is flawless. His cool demeanor and evil ways is bound to strike a chord with the audiences. The final action sequence which incidentally is the only one where he stars brought back memories of his Matrix days.
The action sequences for that matter are well choreographed and though I could easily track a few scenes where the wire work shows because of the way the actors move, the action doesn’t lose its charm. Apart from the finale, the fight between Chen and two other fighters as also Chen’s fight with a mercenary are proficiently done. The cionematographer has to be given special credit for using long shots to give the viewers a true sens eof the visuals and happenings.The background score and editing compliment the actions well. Overall Man Of Tai Chi stands on its own for the action and also the above average performances. This is not the best action film you will ever see but is good enough to merit a view.