Who is the Man of Tai Chi?
Set in modern Japan, Keanu Reeves' directorial début tells the tale of the young and physically powerful Tiger Chen. Tiger is well versed in the Ling Kong style of Tai Chi, and as his master's only student he is the lone successor of that style steeped in a rich heritage.
As the film begins we meet Tiger, a disciplined and dedicated student and a usually not-on-time courier. The film depicts the beautiful art of Tai Chi as we do not usually see it. Tiger's master is truly a master of the Ling Kong style and wishes to impart all that he knows to his student. While he attempts to instill in Tiger the need for meditation and reflection to maintain control, Tiger insists that power is more important than control and this sets him on a path that will lead him to a battle to the death. Wanting to prove himself, Tiger competes in a local Wulin contest to show the effectiveness of using Tai Chi in the martial arts ring.
Donaka Mark (played by Keanu Reeves) is the vicious and power-hungry owner of a very large security company. After witnessing the power of Tiger's Tai Chi on-screen, he quickly arranges for Tiger to come in for an "interview". Upon arriving for the job interview promised by Donaka, Tiger finds himself in an all-out kung-fu brawl. After defeating his opponent, Tiger is taken into Donaka's office where he is given the opportunity to fight in Donaka's underground "fight-club" and is promised that he will be rewarded handsomely. Tiger refuses to dishonor himself and his master by using Tai Chi to fight for money.
Soon after Tiger finds that the birthplace of Ling Kong Tai Chi, his master's 600 year old temple, was to be demolished due to the many code and safety violations. He is forced to begin fighting for Donaka because he sees it as the only way to save the temple. Tiger begins tearing through every opponent thrown his way, and soon begins to develop a real liking for it.
Man of Tai Chi does a brilliant job of taking a good man and turning him into a monster. As the movie goes deeper, so too does Tiger spiral deeper into the black. The question lingering in the minds of the onlookers is this: "Will he be totally corrupted, or will righteousness prevail in him?"
Beyond the story, which fits perfectly to the Keanu Reeves mold, there is a great soundtrack, awesome lines like "He used soft style in a hard way", and absolutely brilliant fight scenes. Aside from all the expertly displayed martial arts styles in this film, it gets even better with the addition of the "Ling Kong Jing" or "empty force", which would be the crowning distinction of Tiger's style of Tai Chi. All in all, this movie was great and I very much think that any fan of martial arts films will enjoy it.