Man of Tai Chi

Man of Tai Chi is a 2013 Chinese-American martial arts film directed by and starring Keanu Reeves in his directorial debut and co-starring Tiger Chen, Iko Uwais, Karen Mok, and Simon Yam.[4][5][6] A multilingual film featuring dialogue in Mandarin, English and Hong Kong Cantonese, it revolves around a young martial artist who is pushed by the need of money to enter the world of underground fighting.

Man of Tai Chi
Man of Tai Chi.jpg
Chinese theatrical release poster
Directed byKeanu Reeves
Written byMichael G. Cooney
Produced byLemore Syvan
CinematographyElliot Davis
Edited byDerek Hui
Music byChan Kwong-wing
Distributed byUnited States:
China Film Group
Wanda Media
Australia & New Zealand:
Roadshow Entertainment
Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • 5 July 2013 (2013-07-05) (China)
  • 1 November 2013 (2013-11-01) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes
United States
BudgetUS$25 million[2]
Box officeUS$5.5 million[3]

The film was released in China on 5 July 2013 and in the USA on 1 November 2013. Despite the critics praising Reeves's direction and the fight sequences, the film bombed at the box office.[7]


HKPD officer Sun-Jing Shi leads an investigation into Security System Alliance (SSA), a private security firm owned by the mysterious Donaka Mark. Suspecting Donaka of hosting an illegal fighting operation, Sun-Jing turns one of his fighters into a mole who gets killed by him. Without any evidence, Superintendent Wong orders the case closed, but Sun-Jing secretly continues investigating. Donaka then sees Tiger, a young, working-class disciple of tai chi at a Wu Lin Wang Competition, gets impressed with his fighting skills and sends him a job offer at SSA. Tired of his menial courier job, Tiger flies to Hong Kong for the job interview which turns out to be a test of his combat ability. He passes the test and is welcomed by Donaka who offers him great financial rewards for joining his underground fighting ring. Tiger refuses as fighting for money would compromise his honor, and leaves. Soon after, land inspectors declare the tai chi temple belonging to Tiger's master structurally unsafe and plan to evict its occupants to demolish the temple for real estate development. Tiger seeks help from Qing Sha, a paralegal friend, and finds a means to save the temple through historic preservation and government protection. However, the need of money for repairing the temple within a month's time prompts Tiger to accept Donaka's offer.

After each fight, which is a form of modern gladiatorial combat enjoyed by rich individuals, Tiger wins larger sums of money. He quits his job, buys his parents presents, and begins having the temple repaired. With time, Tiger develops a more efficient and brutal style. Noticing the change in him, Master Yang warns Tiger; however, intoxicated with the new life, Tiger ignores the warning. In the Wu Lin Competition, Tiger viciously injures his opponent and is disqualified. When Tiger comes back to train at the temple, a fight ensues and Master Yang is forced to use his internal Chi energies to palm-strike Tiger, reminding him that he is yet to completely master tai chi. Tiger ignores his advice to meditate, and finds out that the authority has rejected his petition to gain historical protection for the temple due to his actions at the Wu Lin Competition, which are against his temple's philosophy. An enraged Tiger demands a fight and Donaka has him face a mercenary named Uri Romanov. Using his rage, he quickly defeats Uri and almost kills him, but relents at the end. Donaka finishes off Uri. Realizing how much he has changed, Tiger declares his intention to stop participating in underground fighting and contacts Sun-Jing, unaware of the constant surveillance Donaka had put him under for a long time.

Donaka sets up a private tournament for a death match, in which Tiger is to participate. Sun-Jing trails Tiger's escort, but her car is run off the road. Surviving the crash, Sun-Jing calls for assistance and discovers Superintendent Wong had been working for Donaka. At the tournament, Donaka plays a video composed of surveillance footage, revealing how Tiger had been manipulated, "corrupted" and transformed from an innocent martial arts practitioner to a ruthless fighter. Tiger refuses to fight his assigned opponent, and challenges Donaka instead. The fight is interrupted by the HKPD, who storm the compound and arrest participants and audience. Fleeing from the scene, Donaka arrives at the temple and starts fighting with Tiger. Donaka initially has the upper hand, but Tiger re-embraces his tai chi training and manages to palm-strike Donaka despite getting stabbed. A dying Donaka smiles, pleased for having pushed Tiger to become a killer. Tiger and his master then reconcile, Sun-Jing gets promoted to Superintendent and Tiger reaches an agreement with both Qing Sha's law firm and the real estate developers. The government decides to protect the village and tourists are invited to visit and learn more about the 600-year history of the Ling Kong Temple. Tiger tells Qing-Sha that he intends to open his own tai chi school in the city to continue the legacy of the Ling Kong tai chi.



Pre-production began in 2008 with years-long script refinements. When the project eventually moved into the production phase, principal photography occurred on mainland China and Hong Kong.


The film received an R rating from the MPAA, although Reeves said it was shot with the intention of a PG-13 rating.[8][9][10]

The film premiered in 2013 with showings at the Beijing Film Festival[11] and Cannes Film Festival.[12] It was also scheduled to be shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[13] It became available for purchase on 27 September 2013 via the iTunes Store (VOD) video on demand, and had its theatrical release in the US on 1 November 2013.


The film premiered at the 2013 Beijing International Film Festival, where it received praise from action film director John Woo.[14] Rotten Tomatoes reported that 71% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 68 reviews, with an average rating of 6.10/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "It may not be groundbreaking, but Man of Tai Chi represents an agreeably old-fashioned picture for martial arts fans – and a solid debut for first-time director Keanu Reeves."[15] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 52 out of 100 based on 22 critic reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[16]

Robert Abele of the Los Angeles Times called it "a movie streamlined to evoke the timeless zip of martial arts movies past" and praised the "refreshingly grounded and old-school kinetic" action.[17] Sheila O'Malley, writing at, also praised the "thrilling immediacy" of the fight scenes: "you realize you are actually seeing these guys actually do this, as opposed to watching something pieced together later in the editing room".[18] Dave McGinn of the Globe and Mail, in contrast, called the film "ambitious but generic" and filled with "stale conventions".[19]

Despite the favorable reviews, the movie was a box office bomb. Having grossed US$5.5 million against a budget of US$25 million.[20]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Weintraub, Steve 'Frosty' (23 August 2012). "Keanu Reeves Talks SIDE BY SIDE, 47 RONIN, His Directorial Debut MAN OF TAI CHI, BILL & TED 3, and POINT BREAK LIVE". Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  2. ^ "Out in Theaters: MAN OF TAI CHI".
  3. ^ "Man of Tai Chi (2013) - International Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo".
  4. ^ Shackleton, Liz (7 June 2012). "China's new global strategy". Screen Daily. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  5. ^ Young, Al (19 December 2011). "Karen Mok Joins Keanu Reeves' MAN OF TAI CHI". Twitch. Archived from the original on 25 June 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  6. ^ Lower, Gavin (29 June 2012). "Village Roadshow Unit Puts IPO Plans on Hold". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  7. ^ "'Man of Tai Chi' Loses Fight for China Box-Office Crown". The Hollywood Reporter.
  8. ^ "Keanu Reeves Talks SIDE BY SIDE, 47 RONIN, His Directorial Debut MAN OF TAI CHI, BILL & TED 3, and POINT BREAK LIVE". Collider.
  9. ^ "Man of Tai Chi aims at a PG-13 rating".
  10. ^ "Man of Tai Chi With R-Rating After All".
  11. ^ Davidson, Mike (20 May 2013). "Keanu Reeves spent five years on his latest film: Why?". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  12. ^ Davidson, Mike (20 May 2013). "Keanu Reeves makes director debut with Kung Fu film". Reuters. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  13. ^ "Toronto film festival 2013: the full line-up". The Guardian. London. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  14. ^ "Man of Tai Chi (2013) - Kung-fu Kingdom". Kung-fu Kingdom. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Man of Tai Chi (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  16. ^ "Man of Tai Chi Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  17. ^ "Review: Keanu Reeves, as director, gives 'Man of Tai Chi' zip". Los Angeles Times. 31 October 2013. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  18. ^ O'Malley, Sheila. "Man of Tai Chi Movie Review & Film Summary (2013) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  19. ^ "Review: Keanu Reeves, as director, gives 'Man of Tai Chi' zip". Los Angeles Times. 31 October 2013. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  20. ^ Dominguez, Noah (5 December 2022). "Keanu Reeves Would Love to Direct Again, But Needs a Man of Tai Chi Situation". CBR. Retrieved 23 February 2023.

External linksEdit