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The Boston Globe


Movie Review

Keanu Reeves debuts as director in ‘Man of Tai Chi’

He won’t be mistaken for Wong Kar Wei very soon, or even Newt Arnold, of “Bloodsport” (1988), but Keanu Reeves’s directorial career gets off to a decent start with this hit-and-miss martial arts allegory about good and evil and kicking butt. He makes one big casting mistake – himself as the bad guy. Also, Tiger Chen is a little uncharismatic as the hero, “Tiger” Chen Lin-Hu; he looks like a cross between Michael Cera and Reeves. Then there is also Reeves’s pretentious stylistic flourishes, and a narrative that ebbs and flows listlessly with a tendency toward mystical hokum. But with his thoughtful exploration of the conflict between desire and responsibility, and his self-reflexive exploration of the themes of voyeurism, ambition, and personal identity, Reeves’s debut shows signs of a talented filmmaker.

Reeves plays Donaka Mark, the head of a Beijing-based security company. On the side he puts on fight-to-the-death martial arts bouts for chichi international clients who look like they just came from the sex-slave auction in “Taken” (2008). After terminating the contract for his reigning champion, Donaka’s looking for new blood. You can tell this guy is evil because he puts on a blank, glowering mask when he commits his most dastardly deeds. And you can tell it’s Keanu Reeves because the mask is more expressive than the actor.

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