Man of Tai Chi – 3/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

man of tai chiMan of Tai Chi – 3/5 – This is a review for a film that came out not to long ago.  This film follows in the tradition of ‘fighting/martial arts’ themed films.  When a movie has this kind of theme, it doesn’t have to do much to entertain the mass audience.  Man of Tai Chi does just enough; bringing us with enough awesome fights within a basic story to make this film a pleasant ride.

Premise: A journey into the art of Tai Chi, one man must learn to achieve the ultimate skill, even if he has to learn it along a dangerous path that he may not return from.

The acting, like most films that involves action or martial arts, is really not something worth clamoring over.  Even so, it is worth noting the important people and their roles.  We have:

Tiger Hu Chen as Chen Lin-Hu

Karen Mok as Sun Jingshi

Iko Uwais as Gilang Sanjaya

Keanu Reeves as Donaka Mark

Reeves is the most recognizable name of this group (as the others are bigger in foreign markets), but he plays a minor role.  His role in this film is to be the main villain.  Even in a minor role, his wooden caricature is showing prevalently when he is on screen.  Even in that one sided feel, he does a decent job in providing a strong antagonist for the main character, Chen Lin-Hu.  The man who plays Chen Lin-Hu does a great job in creating a person who is a disciple of Tai Chi.  In being that student, he helps create a figure that shows you the two paths of this style of fighting; especially what happens if you go down the wrong direction in training Tai Chi.  The evolution of his persona is pristine, and it is put on great display within the choreograph fights.  You feel real depth within his skilled fighting moves more than the acting.  The other people (including the rest of the supporting cast) are underwhelming, cheesy and typical for these kinds of films.  Not really worth describing those characters.

The direction of the film is very linear, predictable and usual when it comes to a martial arts themed film.   From the basic prologue, we get introduced to Chen Lin-Hu, a typical but ‘innocence’ soul, who does the right things.  The one thing that is different than most is he trains in a very well kept ‘mysterious’ fighting skill.  Opposite his introduction, you also are shown the ‘antagonist’ player; a security firm that is ran by Donaka Mark.  He is part of an underground fighting ring, and is looking for that perfect fighter; he could bring down this darker path.  When both these worlds collide, the film starts to go down a very unraveling display of terrible dialogue and predictable plot elements that drive the story along.  What all the slow setup leads to is the introduction of those underground fighting rings.  Here, you are witness to some pretty amazing fights.  For any film that has a theme or flavor of martial arts, the one thing that should be the most amazing and biggest draw are the fights.  This is what helps balance all the cliché elements in the direction, as this is the reason for the film’s overall entertainment.   From the first training sequence with his mater to the fights Chen has in the underground rings, you feel the rawness that is vigorous and believable.  Another strong part of these fights is the originality in them.  With a lot of different fighting styles are on display in the underground and legal fighting rings, everything stands out with its own flavor, and shown with striking executed.  The movie seems to be at its high points during these fights; as they are really emotionally driven, showing the dedication these fighters have to their specific skills.  As you watch the film progress, what also compliments the fights is the great aspect of the overall definition of what ‘Tai Chi’ is.  Even as the story stays predictable, the themes of seeing the ‘light’ and ‘dark’ parts of this fighting style helps provide some kind of depth within the main character, Chen Lin-Hu.  You see he must either become the man he was train to be, or lead down a path of no return. After one specific fight he has underground, he makes a decision that affects his livelihood and his master.  The film then leads down a ‘redemption’ style road, where Chen must gain all that respect of his school and skills back.  After the build-up and the ‘ideals of truth’ climax, the film leads into a very convenient ending.  Even for this, the ending does provide good closure to the film, as well as great epic fight between Donaka and Chen Li-Hu.

The visuals of the film has an aesthetic appeal showing ‘everyday’ China, as you see life as usual throughout the film.  This helps compliment the flow of the film, and add a contrast to the fights.  The great part of the visuals is watching these choreograph fights, as they are vivid, amazing and grounded in their showiness.  The score is another strong part of the film.  The music helps provide that element of thrill for the fights, pumping up the action throughout.

Overall, Man of Tai Chi isn’t a film that will be for everyone, but it is one that will provide enough thrills that you’ll be entertained.  If you’re a fan of martial art films, this is one for you.  This movie is definitely worth adding to your own personal collection, and also a rental for a Friday night at home.

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