x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Reeves's directorial debut – a five-year labour of love – is a visual spectacle.

Tiger Hu Chen, right, in a scene from Man of Tai Chi.

CREDIT: Courtesy China Film Group
Tiger Hu Chen, right, in a scene from Man of Tai Chi. CREDIT: Courtesy China Film Group

Man of Tai Chi

Director: Keanu Reeves

Starring: Tiger Hu Chen, Keanu Reeves

***

Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut stars Tiger Hu Chen as a young tai chi student drawn into a world of danger when a mysterious media mogul (played by Reeves) pays him to use his skills for fighting.

The Matrix star’s five-year labour of love is a visual spectacle. Every one of the many fight scenes has near-perfect choreography and is shot in a mature and compelling style.

It’s a shame, then, that the plot is so contrived, a factor that the tremendous action only thinly veils for the first third of the film and something that becomes more ­apparent towards the end.

The story clearly has a strong philosophical point to make. If the same time had been spent on developing that point as the action sequences, we would have had something very special.

While every inch the action hero, the stuntman Chen flounders when required to convey his character’s emotional turmoil. This is echoed by Reeves, clearly enjoying playing the villain, but he’s not an actor who can be relied on for a showstopping performance.

By the movie’s attractive but slightly hollow end, you are thoroughly entertained by this Holly­wood A-lister’s first feature, but frustratingly never floored by it.

artslife@thenational.ae