The Matrix still stands as one of the most revolutionary films of all time. It brought the traditions of Hong Kong action cinema to western shores, and made them part of Hollywood’s filmmaking language. Alas, that proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Instead of prompting Hollywood filmmakers to step up their fight choreography game, they simply used CGI and other tricks to enhance otherwise lackluster fight scenes. That tendency grew progressively worse over the past 13 years, leading to the glut of incoherent “chaos” filmmaking that now rules the multiplexes. It is somewhat fitting that the star of the watershed film that helped usher in the current era of action cinema is now trying to take things back to a more classical approach.
A proof of concept reel for Keanu Reeves directorial debut, Man of Tai-Chi, shows him to be a more ambitious filmmaker than anyone could’ve anticipated. He’s working on a new camera rig that could place considerable filmmaking power in the hands of fight choreographers, stuntmen, cinematographers and editors. The rig has been dubbed the “Bot & Dolly.” Its purpose is to film fight scenes in a visually dynamic manner without the use of CGI. In the video, Keanu Reeves offers a clear explanation as to what his goals are: "the ambition for me was trying to get what I've seen done before with CGI and putting the camera in places where you couldn't get and have the flesh and blood elements there." This is exciting news, as it could mark a return to good old fashioned visual coherence in action cinema without forsaking visual dynamism.