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film review

Tiger Hu Chen and Keanu Reeves in a scene from Man of Tai Chi.

Keanu Reeves makes his directorial debut and stars as the villain in this ambitious but generic martial-arts movie.

Tiger Hu Chen, who helped choreograph action scenes in The Matrix, stars as a martial-arts expert who gets pulled into an underground fight club run by security specialist Donaka Mark (Reeves). It's the only way to save his master's temple from destruction, but he quickly becomes seduced by his powers, prompting plenty of philosophical discussions about choosing your path. There's also a police officer investigating the fight club, although that entire subplot feels tangential and generic.

The fight scenes are action-packed and display a range of fighting styles, so martial-arts movie aficionados will be pleased.

Unfortunately, Chen doesn't have the screen presence to make a very compelling action star, and too much of the movie – the rich villain, the fight club, the seductions of the dark side, etc. – are stale conventions that Reeves can't breathe new life into.