The "Bill & Ted's"-style flop-mop that martial artist Tiger Chen sports in "Man of Tai Chi" isn't the only reminder of
But what's most cosmically appropriate about this no-nonsense yet all-nonsense action flick is how Reeves' greatest strength as a star — his fluid, imposing physicality — is also his best asset as a director. The brutally efficient shooting style Reeves employs to film master choreographer Yuen Woo Ping's breathtaking fights — mostly one-on-one showdowns in tight quarters featuring Chen against a series of deadly intent opponents — is refreshingly grounded and old-school kinetic, reminiscent of Jackie Chan's athletic roundelays over the increasingly fantastical Hong Kong action movies of late.
There's even a welcome exuberance to the philosophical debate at hand: Should tai chi be an inner strength or an outward force, or both? Chen, who helped train Reeves on the "Matrix" films, proves a better actor fighting than when left alone with the camera. But that's a quibble for a movie streamlined to evoke the timeless zip of martial arts movies past.
'Man of Tai Chi'
MPAA rating: R for violence.
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Playing: At AMC Burbank 8.