“Man of Tai Chi”: a study in movie making

Tiger Chen Linhu on the ground and glaring at his enemy, Donaka Mark. (Screenshot by Will Nacouzi/The Skyline View)

Tiger Chen Linhu on the ground and glaring at his enemy, Donaka Mark. (Screenshot by Will Nacouzi/The Skyline View)

“Man of Tai Chi” is a straight forward movie with a plot that does not pull any surprise punches, or chops, on the viewer. But on the other hand, it offers an array of martial arts fights with little to no CGI or wire work, which makes it stand out from everything else of its kind.

Interestingly, the movie serves as the directorial debut of Keanu Reeves. The overall results? A movie with a captivating touch of the philosophy behind the tai chi martial art forms and draws attention to the fact that while tai chi is used by many to exercise it is, at the end of the day, a fighting style and can be used as such.

Don’t know the philosophy of tai chi? Well, to it keep it simple, since I myself aren’t an expert on the topic: it is not directly resisting an incoming attack but rather to meet it with softness and maintaining contact with the attack, following until it has been exhausted or redirecting it elsewhere. And as shown in the movie, via our protagonist Tiger Chen Linhu, played by Tiger Chen. Though far more important is the fact that it is achieved by remaining calm and in control of one’s body movements.

This aspect of the movie services to further enhance the movie’s plot adding a sense of depth to the central conflict, which revolves around Linhu’s struggle to find balance in his life, his responsibilities, and understand the core philosophy of tai chi as he learns it from his Master.

Furthermore this is built on and illustrated by the various fights in the movie, especially in the fighting style he uses, as he is tested by each fight.

Of course, it just doesn’t stop but also expands into the background and the colors used for each character scene which are used to further show the viewer additional characteristics of the characters, especially between our hero and villain.

Chiefly notable when comparing the differences between Chen and Mark various scenes.

Mark’s house, workplace, and business place uses dark and dull colors, directly reflecting his own personality and fighting style, which focuses on raw physical strength and direct force.

Linhu on the other hand is full with of backgrounds that stand out to the viewer, showing the differences between the two personalities. Whereas Marks is dark and blunt, Linhu background is filled with color and a sense of life. These small details speaks to the viewers, allowing them to use these little details to determine the character personalities.

However this positive elements aside, the movie lack a sense of personality for itself, which is best illustrated through the characters’ dialogue. Consider the latest Captain American installment, “The Winter Solider”, where the dialogue, along with the visual elements, was strong and successful in conveying the characters’ personality. That is lacking in “Man of Tai Chi.”

Overall, “Man of Tai Chi” is a good movie, a solid debut for Keanu Reeves. “Man of Tai Chi” does not pose an interesting question for general viewers but for those that like martial arts movies, this should not be missed, if not for the plot, then the fighting, of course.