The "Man of Tai Chi" Movie Experience: A Review

Monday, July 22, 2013

Man of Tai Chi is a 2013 Chinese-American martial arts film directed by and starring Keanu Reeves. The film is Reeves' first in a directing role. Man of Tai Chi is a multilingual narrative, partly inspired by the life of Reeves' friend, stuntman Tiger Chen. A young martial artist's unparalleled Tai Chi skills land him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club.

Pre-production began in 2008 with years-long script refinements. When the project eventually moved into the production phase, filming occurred on mainland China and Hong Kong. The film premiered in 2013 with showings at the Beijing Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. The work was awarded in Beijing and praised by recognized director of action genre films, John Woo.

To date, Man of Tai Chi is one of my favorite action film this year. The plot was intimate. There are no unnecessary subplots that would be considered clutter on the overall presentation of the film. The character development of the film is very effective. A limited number of main characters made the story engaging. Tai Chi has been presented here as a defense/offense-type of martial arts. The story is direct to the point and it tried to build tension to the viewers through effective cinematography and dialogues. The action scenes were very realistic and it is as if you are watching a real martial-arts tournament/fight club match.

The protagonist of the story, Tiger Chen kept a simple at the same time a mysterious way of portraying his character. Oftentimes the viewer is invited to enter into his character and put himself in the dilemma of making crucial decisions. What made his character special is the wonderful mix of simple and complicated attack on Tiger Chen's character. He was a simple guy who works for a delivery service, the only heir/disciple of the Tai Chi temple, and a simple guy who likes to fight. Sun Jingshi (Karen Mok) on the other hand was also the best choice for her police/inspector role. Her ability to do stunts on her own and her firm acting is a plus on this film. (Spoiler Alert: My favorite Karen Mok scene was the car chase, a must see!)

I love how the film presented the rural and urban part of China/Hong Kong. (The differences in the texture of walls and pavements, the landscapes and cityscapes, and the costume design for the cast and fighters in the film). The wonderful aerial shots and seamless maneuvering of the camera made the visuals of the film fluid. One of the scenes that I loved was when a day was being shown in a time-lapsed format but the camera moves from one place to another while the suggestion of time passing in a fast-paced is being suggested.

Here is the trailer of the film and other details:

Man of Tai Chi
Initial release: 2013
Director: Keanu Reeves
Production companies: Universal Studios, Village Roadshow Pictures,China Film Group Corporation
Genres: Martial Arts Film, Action film

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