Man of Tai Chi

Get it because Yin and Yang.
"No rules. No mercy. Pure fighting."

Hello friends, it's magic hour again, time for more brilliance from The Tagline! While I was working on some stuff over the weekend I decided to take a peek into Netflix once again, and spin the big roulette wheel of garbage, just to see where it would land. While I was browsing I couldn't help but notice that there was a movie with Keanu Reeves on the cover, and then I saw that the movie was called Man of Tai Chi, which was somehow even more preposterous seeming to me than his roll in 47 Ronin. With the intention of ridiculing both Keanu and the movie he was in, I started Man of Tai Chi, and as is almost universally the case after I utter the words "there's no way this could be any good" I found myself watching a movie that was drastically different than I had presumed, and it was actually pretty decent. At least partly to blame was that I saw a movie with Keanu Reeves attached, and naturally assumed he would be the protagonist. I was wrong about that. Keanu, in addition to being the director (and I will talk more about that) is the primary antagonist  of the film, whereas the protagonist is Chinese stuntman Tiger Chen (who did stunt work for the Matrix movies, hence his acquaintance with Reeves) who plays a character of the same name. Tiger is shown to us as an honest and hardworking individual, and also the sole pupil of Master Yang, a master of Ling Kong Tai Chi. Tiger wants to prove the martial use of Tai Chi, and so is participating in a local Wulin tournament. Sounds like he's living a pretty normal kung-fu life right? WELL WAIT A SECOND.

Guns? No FISTS
So Tiger soon catches the attention of Donaka Mark (that's Reeves) a very clearly bad dude who is running what seems like an illegal fighting ring that broadcasts online. One determined police detective, Sun Jing-Shi, is trying to catch him in the act after several people are killed in these fights, but her superior considers the case a dead end, frustrating her efforts. Tiger agrees to fight for Donaka because the money is real good, and he needs to raise money to repair safety violations at his master's temple, which a development firm is using as leverage to try and close the temple, bulldoze it, and replace it with some lame building development that would be way less cool than a martial arts temple that had been sitting there for 700 years or something. Despite his financial success, and his success in the fights, the brutality of the combat begins to take its toll on Tiger spiritually, and goes against the philosophy of balance and reflection that his master is trying to teach him. 

Power is not control.
If you watch kung-fu, this should not sound strange to you at all. This movie immediately settled into the sort of tone and plot that I've come to expect from Hong Kong kung-fu movies, and that was a pleasant surprise. Even more than this, the movie does not fall into some of the more fantastic categories (your Crouching Tiger style martial-arts stuff) for the most part rooting its choreography in maneuvers that sit just at the edge of possibility. What you end up with are some really fantastic and exciting fight scenes that have a gravity that is missing from fight choreography that has people floating around on bamboo shoots or something. The plot isn't exactly groundbreaking, but I don't think you are especially looking for that in these kinds of movies (or at least I'm really not) I wanted a well paced martial-arts film, and I was surprised when that was actually what I got. Keanu Reeves might be a wooden actor, but he clearly loves kung-fu movies, and he knows his shit behind a camera. This movie was shot in a way that really made the most of what was excellent choreography, and overall it was just an enjoyable movie to watch.

I just... I don't even know.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Keanu Reeves was much better than usual in FRONT of the camera. It seems like even HE knows he's kind of lousy, and so he doesn't have a whole lot of lines, mostly he serves as a menacing mastermind in the background, until his inevitable battle with the protagonist. He does know kung-fu though, as we learned from the Matrix, and the thing I took away from his fight with Tiger is that he's actually a pretty big dude, it just doesn't come across in most of his movies. Bottom line though is that while I expected this movie to be a ridiculous waste of time, it was actually an enjoyable waste of time, that was only ridiculous when Keanu Reeves was talking, which was thankfully not often. A lot of the movie's dialogue IS in Mandarin though, so if you don't like subtitles I guess that's an issue (though if you watch any significant amount of martial arts movies and don't watch movies with subtitles you are walking a thorny path). This movie is on Netflix, and has a modest run time of only 105 minutes, so I'd say if it sounds interesting check it out, and I think you'll enjoy it.

That's all for today! Join me again on Thursday, for more summer fun, by which I mean maybe a cut rate movie about witches or like, the Bourne Legacy... something with Jeremy Renner probably.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Project Wonderful Ad