One of the more fascinating developments in recent international filmmaking has been the rise of American-Chinese co-productions. These have ranged from co-financing deals (such as with Looper) to the recent full logistical backing lent to Transformers 4 by the Chinese government. Somewhere between the two falls Man of Tai Chi, an upcoming martial arts film shot in Beijing, but directed by Hollywood stalwart Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin).

A mix of action and personal drama, Man of Tai Chi follows a young man given the opportunity to develop his talents as a martial arts fighter. Promised, “No rules; no referees,” he enters a series of underground mixed martial arts fights. His decision will plunge him into an increasingly painful and tumultuous underworld.

Man of Tai Chi marks Reeves’ directing debut. The film stars Iko Uwais (The Raid: Redemption), Tiger Hu Chen (Kung Fu Hero), Karen Mok (Shaolin Soccer), and Reeves himself.

This first, Chinese-targeted preview for Man of Tai Chi leans heavily on Reeves’ international figure to sell the film. It shows off plenty of bone-crunching action without giving much of an idea of the overall plot, which is somewhat refreshing in an era in which trailers tend to act as condensed outlines for entire movies.

That said, it’s difficult to discern just how well Reeves will perform behind the camera, due to the trailer’s lightning-quick edits. In addition, there’s a certain underlying cheese factor to the affair, what with Reeves’ dead-serious narration and staccato delivery of, “LET…THE SHOW…BEGIN.” Whether Man of Tai Chi will end up being the beginning of a promising new phase in Reeves’ career or an unintentional howler remains to be seen.


Man of Tai Chi will prove its worth in theaters in late 2013.