Thursday, February 6, 2014

Film Review: Man of Tai Chi (2013)

Man of Tai Chi (Review)
United States/China/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Streaming
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a fantastic, thrilling fight at every corner..."

Tiger Chen (Tiger Hu Chen) is the final student of Ling Kong Tai Chi. He is powerful, but has not fully accepted the teachings of his master. When he is contacted by the mysterious and wealthy Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves) for lucrative "security" job, Tiger spirals into a battle for survival and a battle within...

Man of Tai Chi is a straight-forward martial arts action film. Tiger Chen begins fighting in an underground fight club where his skill is tested against opponents with different styles. Tempted by the money and fame, Tiger also has a battle within himself. Meanwhile, a Hong Kong detective (Karen Mok) is hot on the trail of this fight club. The story is a bit cliché and predictable, but it is action-packed with little filler. The ending feels like it's leading up to something epic, but substitutes that with a merely decent fight -- I was genuinely disappointed.

Like I said: Man of Tai Chi is a straight-forward martial arts action film with a cliché and predictable plot. But, it's forgivable. Man of Tai Chi has a refreshing old-school vibe blended with some cheesy elements, which make it much more entertaining and tolerable. In fact, this style really hooked my into the film and kept me hooked until the end. And, it also has incredible contemporary martial arts. There is a fantastic, thrilling fight at every corner to satisfy action fans. It is also ferociously paced, so it reaches it's ending quickly. The climax is disappointing, though.

My main gripe with the story was the incredibly predictable, unfortunately unnecessary, and ultimately intrusive police subplot. The predictable and unnecessary complaints are self explanatory, but let me explain the intrusiveness of this subplot. (Potential *Minor* Spoilers) If you do any preliminary research before watching a film, as I do, you'd know Iko Uwais is listed in the cast. Now, if you know Iko Uwais, its understandable to expect a fight between Iko and Tiger -- and it does build up to that. In fact, Iko is treated as Tiger's final challenge, so imagine my anticipation. Unfortunately, due to this subplot, and whatever purpose it was trying to achieve, it never happens -- it interferes. Iko Uwais appearance is less than 3 minutes of trying to fight -- they never actually fight, though.

Tiger Hu Chen is a fantastic fighter -- he doesn't have much charisma or emotion, but he's serviceable for the role. Keanu Reeves is as wooden as ever, but it kind of fits his character this time around. The music is a great blend of different styles and tones, and it works well with this story. The cinematography is great, and I like the engaging camerawork. The fight choreography is great, it's fast, realistic, and engaging. The editing also contributes to the realism of the fight scenes. Keanu Reeves makes his directorial debut with Man of Tai Chi, and he does a great job; he create the perfect vibe and captures the fights perfectly, but the added subplot is detrimental to the experience.

Overall, the bulk of Man of Tai Chi is fantastic. It's a ferociously paced, highly entertaining action extravaganza. The police subplot fails to serve a purpose, and I feel it's to blame for the disappointing climax. I recommend this film for fans of martial arts and action fans.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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