MARTIAL ARTS

‘Man of Tai Chi’ loses the fight for quality | 1½ stars

Updated: 2013-11-06T01:34:19Z

By MICHAEL O’SULLIVAN

The Washington Post

Rated R | Time: 1:45

In Mandarin, Cantonese and English with subtitles

I’m going to make a strange recommendation. If for some reason you find yourself in a theater watching the martial arts adventure “Man of Tai Chi” — say, you’re on the lam from the cops, hiding out at the multiplex and all 13 other titles are sold out — feel free to take a nap during the non-fight sequences.

You won’t miss anything if you drift off, but it’ll be hard to do anyway. Most of the movie consists of loud, visually dynamic fights, between Beijing deliveryman Tiger Chen — played by Tiger Chen, a stuntman and trainer on all three “Matrix” films — and a parade of international pugilists of various combat styles.

In between is the flimsiest tissue of a plot. In order to save the temple of his tai chi master (Yu Hai) from demolition, Tiger must put his peaceful tai chi skills to work in an underground fight club run by creepy mobster Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves, also making his directorial debut). Unbeknownst to Tiger, Donaka is grooming his star fighter for the club’s elite, highly illegal, fight-to-the-death events, which are simultaneously being investigated by heroic police officer Jing-Si (Karen Mok).

Will Tiger be turned into a savage murderer before Jing-Si can get enough evidence to stop Donaka, or before Tiger does? Will Tiger save the temple, not to mention his soul? Will anyone other than hard-core martial arts junkies pay good money to watch this stuff, which I admit, in smaller doses, holds a powerful visual/visceral fascination?

I know the answer to all of these questions, and so do you.

(At the Barrywoods, Town Center.)

| Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post

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