What it is: Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut to showcase the skills of, and pay tribute to, his trainer and friend Tiger Chen (Chen Hu).
In a nutshell: An innocent, mild-mannered Tai Chi disciple gets lured into the violent world of underground fighting. His growing bloodlust and thirst for victory transforms him in the process.
The result: A stunning display of different fighting styles. From honorable defense-based Tai Chi and proper Chinese Kung Fu to no-holds-barred mixed martial arts, the movie is a nonstop combat spectacle.
Tiger Chen does justice to the role Keanu Reeves designed for him, and his portrayal of the character’s transformation from a gullible innocent to bloodthirsty fighter was superb. Keanu displayed very impressive fight skills too, and proved to be a calculated and worthy antagonist.
The fight scenes were awesome, and Tiger Chen simply delivers. I was pleased to find out that Chen was actually responsible for the fight choreography and action sequences in topnotch movies such as Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, and The Matrix. No wonder, really. He’s got the the moves to show for it.
The verdict: Martial arts fans would be wowed. It has all the characteristics of a great fight move — brutal hand-to-hand combat, closed cell fights, a noble hero to root for, a thoroughly evil villain that you’d just love to pummel yourself, and some cool master-disciple scenes thrown in. For female viewers, it’s not as filled with blood and gore like similar movies, so don’t worry.
Repeatability: Yes it would be cool to watch it again. The fight scenes are worth reviewing.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars.