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Man of Tai Chi

Year: 2013
Production Co: China Film Group
Director: Keanu Reeves
Writer: Michael G Cooney
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Tiger Hu Chen, Iko Uwais

It's just not Keanu's year, what with the spectacular bomb of 47 Ronin and this turgid mess (although it did triple its money). When he's surrounded by special effects, big themes and much better co-stars (like he was in the Matrix trilogy), you can overlook Reeves' staggering lack of acting talent.

But when the story is as dry it is here (and when Reeves is the best thing in it) you know you're in trouble. He plays Donaka Mark, a fearsome rich playboy with a thirst for blood who runs an underground martial arts fight club for well-heeled betting clientele, a corporate overlord with a constant eye on his domain through a series of video monitors in his plush office.

Of course, that's what he's supposed to be playing. But where an actor with more gravity and far more talent might have convinced as the megalomaniacal criminal mastermind the role called for, Reeves just looks like a little boy playing dress-ups in fine suits.

He targets Chen (Tiger Hu Chen) as his latest conquest, flies him first class to one of the many battlegrounds and treats him like a prince. Chen, formerly a delivery driver with a kindly old master, has a unique talent to fight using the principles of Tai Chi. But when he starts to get too much of a taste for the good life, he forgets the peace-first training of his Yoda-like master and starts to use Tai Chi to crush his enemies.

Some of the fight scenes are balletic and exciting if not exactly original, but the script is as dire as the people who deliver it. Reeves doesn't break expression once except for a single scene where he bellows like a lion. It's supposed to signify that he's enraged (I think), except that the editor had the good sense to cut away before it gets too laughable.

Maybe if the whole film had been played for some comedy, Hong Kong chop socky style, it might have something to distinguish it. As it is, Man of Tai Chi is a bland, passionless effort.

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