Hidden Truman, Crouching Bill (Kill Bill, The Truman Show and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon all rolled into one)
Keanu Reeves tries on his director hat for the first time in the fast and furious Man of Tai Chi. He also stars as bad guy Donaka, a Hong Kong-based fight organizer who films the fights and offers the live feed to a very rich and exclusive, international group of fight fans who want something more than a simple contest. Reeves has spent his $25 million wisely, hiring the best in the business for martial artists who show how it’s done. Tiger Hu Chen plays, eh, Tiger Chen, who has worked with Keanu on the Matrix flicks doing stunts, then we have Iko Uwais from The Raid, but the piece de resistance, was having the brilliant Yuen Woo-ping (Kill Bill II) as action director, because thanks to his massive experience and obvious talent, Man of Tai Chi has some truly amazing, authentic looking, fight sequences. What I particularly liked was the fact that it was all done in real time, with no speeding up of any of the shots. It was noticeable that the fights were a touch slower than some I’ve seen, but that is precisely because they are done properly with no trickery involved. Don’t get me wrong. When they are leaping high in the air, or spinning in place, that is all wires and pulleys. I’m talking about the actual fighting itself.
There are an assortment of various styled fighters, but what each have in common is the clear ability to fight, and they do it extremely well. Donaka is a mysterious Westerner, who we see kill a fighter who refuses to finish off his opponent. He has people scouting for fighters and a delivery driver/Martial Artist comes to his attention when he is spotted fighting in a competition, using an unusual fighting technique, Tai Chi. Tai Chi isn’t really a fighting style but Tiger sets out to show everyone that it’s as effective as any other style. He defeats his opponent easily and is soon offered a job working for the evil Donaka.
He tells him he’ll think about it but doesn’t want to fight for money as it’s dishonorable. Donaka creates financial trouble for Tiger’s Master so making him want to fight. And fight he does. He has win after win but in the process starts to become an unlikeable person and eventually brings shame on his Master and on Tai Chi. The police have been after Donaka for ages and to redeem himself, Tiger agrees to help them bring down the illegal fight organization and Donaka in the process. but things don’t go quite as planned.
The production values were not the best i’ve seen with some rough bits here and there, and another thing, when you wear two hats in your own movie, you should always have an assistant director making sure the scenes where the main director is acting, are done properly. This suffered quite a bit because of Mr Reeves wooden performance, however that aside, this was a most entertaining movie that was indeed exciting, but by the end I was rather puffed out watching all the fighting, as great as it all was. Too much of a good thing, and all that. If you like your fight flicks, then this is not to be missed. By the way, if you’ve seen this film, you’ll understand the title I’ve given it.