This Man packs one helluva punch
MAN OF TAI CHI (NC16)
KEANU Reeves' directorial debut is a martial-arts enthusiast's dream come true.
The trilingual flick - in English, Mandarin and Cantonese - took five years to make and features some notable names in the industry.
It stars not only Reeves, who has Chinese ancestry and is a long-time devotee of taiji, but also Tiger Hu, the director's stuntman in the Matrix trilogy and real-life friend, as the protagonist.
Oh, and pencak-silat practitioner Iko Uwais - who starred in action flick The Raid: Redemption last year - makes a cameo appearance, while action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame directs the fight scenes.
It's all that a fan of chopsocky flicks could ask for.
Hu plays "Tiger" Chen Lin-hu, a Beijing courier who trains with an elderly taiji master (Yu Hai) and is a rising star representing the Ling Kong taiji tradition in the prestigious Wulin Wang martial-arts championship.
Chen catches the eye of Hong Kong businessman Donaka Mark (Reeves), who runs an underground fighting ring. Mark then lures Chen with the promise of fame and fortune, claiming his tournament has no rules and is pure fighting.
Meanwhile, hard-nosed Hong Kong detective Suen Jing-si (Karen Mok) is investigating Mark's shadowy organisation and attempts to recruit Chen as an informant.
Adrenalin junkies will have their craving satiated - according to Reeves, there is "about 40 minutes of fighting".
While the actor-turned-director attempts to mix things up by setting the brawls in different locales, like an empty swimming pool and a container ship, they start to get repetitive after a while.
It might have been more interesting if there was a sequence involving the use of improvisational weapons, like in Jackie Chan movies.
The much-touted showdown between Reeves' and Hu's characters feels tacked on and is contrary to the movie's message of walking away from a fight.
Overall, gongfu fanatics will get a kick out of Man Of Tai Chi, while those looking for a story with punch will find it in Chen's path from corruption to redemption.
After all, some of our greatest battles lie within us.
Man Of Tai Chi opens in cinemas tomorrow.