A few weeks ago I reviewed 47 Ronin, martial arts film starring Keanu Reeves. I gave it a less then rave review. This week I am giving Keanu another chance. The film is called The Man of Tai Chi. This movie was directed by Reeves, and he also played a lead antagonist. I say “a” lead antagonist because there is another very important antagonist, but I’ll get to that later. This project is very close to Reeves’ heart. During the filming of the Matrix trilogy Reeve became good friends with his martial arts trainer Tiger Chen, who plays the main character of the same name.
Basically Tiger Chen is a student of the martial art Tai Chi. Tiger has issue with patience, but he works hard on perfecting his technique. Keanu Reeves is the head of an organization which sets up illegal underground fights for a rich clientele. One day Reeves character is looking for a new fighter, and he happens across a televised martial arts tournament, in which he sees Tiger make quick work of his opponent. This coincides with Tiger’s master’s home and dojo needing major renovations. Reeves contacts Tiger, who is desperate to make money to pay for the renovations.
As Tiger fights through opponent after opponent in these matches he starts to realize these are more than just underground fights, there is a darker secret. However, Tiger begins to benumb to this. His disposition changes and he starts becoming more violent with his fighting. Tai Chi is a naturally soft form of fighting. That is why I said Reeves is not the main antagonist, because Tiger is his own worst enemy. As Tiger starts to unravel more truth he must fight apathy and blood lust as he continues to fall deeper into the darkness which resides within his heart.
Not only was this a beautiful film, but it had a great message about innocence and the darkness within each of us. The film didn’t follow the traditional martial arts film style. I feel this is due to the cooperation between the American and Chinese studios which made it. The fight sequences were innovative, amazing, and plentiful. It is rare to see an American made martial arts film grounded in reality rather than fantasy. I really hope this team makes more films in the near future and I feel this film would have been far more successful had they done a wide release in theaters. I felt it was the perfect mix of east and west styles of filmmaking. Since it’s on Netflix watch instantly you should all go watch it instantly.