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Basically what it comes down to; if you're into classic martial arts movies, you're going to dig this movie, if you're not, you're probably going to shrug at this movie.

Me myself, I'm not too big on martial arts movies but I can definitely still appreciate a well made genre flick, from time to time. This movie in some ways reminded me off "Enter the Dragon". It truly felt like a modern variation on the "Enter the Dragon" story, in a surprisingly good and positive way. Like "Enter the Dragon", it's a pretty basic and straightforward movie, with a simple premise but at the same time it has some nice little touches and nuances to it as well.

So yes, as far as the genre goes, this is a pretty decent movie to watch actually, that besides entertains well. It has a good quick pace and a nice visual style to it. So this really is a pretty good directorial debut by Keanu Reeves.

Yet at the same time, Reeves is also one of the problems with this movie. No, his directing obviously isn't the problem but the fact that he cast himself as the movie its main villain in this is indeed a big problem for the movie. He just isn't charismatic enough to play a villainous role (but then again, he isn't charismatic enough to play anything). And since he's the main villain, I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that the 'big' fight at the end is between him and the movie its main character, played by Tiger Hu Chen. Now, I'm pretty sure that Reeves is a pretty good martial artist on his own right but when he's against Tiger Hu Chen, he's pale in comparison! Besides, before the end fight, there was nothing in this movie that indicated that the Reeves character was a strong or legendary fighter himself, so when he suddenly starts to fight, it pretty much comes out of the blue and it most certainly isn't the big or great finale you would hope for or the finale that this movie deserved.

The movie as a whole starts to fizzle out towards its end. It's because the movie is starting to become a bit too repetitive and because it isn't really building up to a real conclusion. 'Annoying' aspect about the movie its fights is that they appear to be very random ones. There is no tournament structure, in which our main hero progresses from round to round and has to face stronger and more skilled fighters, after each win. I really can't say that the first guy he had to fight was any better than lets say the fourth one he had to face, or vice versa. The fights all pretty much looked the same to me, which is a bit of a killer for the movie its tension and the overall buildup of all of it.

Also annoying how the movie tries to force in a sort of love-story, that doesn't ever feels like its progressing or was anything necessary for the movie its story.

The movie is also trying really hard to make its characters a three-dimensional one and makes him go through some transformations but ultimately it isn't always working out too well, since the movie is lacking some truly interesting and engaging character development, for its main character and all of the other characters who are in it.

But I should probably stop, before I let the movie sound worse than it is. I really enjoyed it for what it was and it was a pretty well done movie, all things considering. After all, this was Keanu Reeves first directed movie and had a very international cast and crew involved with the making. It's basically some good silly, quality entertainment, especially for those who really are into the genre.

7/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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