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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Jet Li's Fearless



I was lucky enough to get my hands on an import DVD of this upcoming movie release.

The film is being billed as Jet Li's last Hong Kong Martial Arts Epic.

Which to me is kind of a bold statement considering there seems to be such a demand for this kind of material lately. But I can understand why he wants to walk away from this genre. It's almost like the classically trained actor who no longer wants to do Shakespeare. Too many Sunday matinee's wearing tights.

But in Jet Li's case, too many days wearing wigs, hanging on wires, and dressed in period costumes.

Judging from the trailer , it looks like the version I watched on DVD is going to be the same for the U.S. release. Unless..... they dub over the film with English, which would be pretty ridiculous considering the tone of the film.

The movie is a semi-biographical account of the life of Huo Yuan Jia. I can see why Jet Li was drawn to this material, it's an interesting true life story. For fun, I did a quick Wikipedia search to check out just how much of the movie's recounting was real.

Surprisingly enough the movie is pretty accurate in it's retelling of the man's life......to a point.

Apparently Huo Yuanjia was a martial artist who took up challenges by foreign fighting champions who ridiculed the Chinese people during a time of poor Chinese morale. Huo Yuanjia became a symbol of Chinese pride, and was renown for his martial arts abilities, and became the founder of the Chin Woo athletic association. A school that is world famous, and is still in existence today.

Where the film uses some artistic license is in of course....the action sequences. The film's action is choreographed by the world famous Yuen Wo Ping of Matrix and Crouching tiger fame.

The ending of the movie is also a little over the top, and over dramatic. Especially when compared to the less dramatic real life story. It also feels a little out of place, considering the way the film is being marketed....as an action film.

Which is what we usually watch a Jet Li movie for, the action. Which the film does feature. There are plenty of impressive fight sequences, and action. What's interesting is that this film takes a more realistic approach to the fighting then Yuen Wo Ping's other choreographed films. Of course when I say realistic, I mean that this film doesn't feature extensive wire work, and mystical flying sequences.

However what limited wire work there is in the film is pretty great, and the more grounded approach in the sequences is all pretty refreshing, and impressive to witness.

Funny enough in real life many of the fights that Huo Yuanjia allegedly participated in the film never happened, apparently whenever a foreign champion was confronted by Huo Yuanjia they would back off in reverence and intimidation, probably because they were all aware of his considerable skills.

As far as the story's structure....unfortunately it's pretty standard stuff. Although a foreign film, Ronny Yu's movie still feels very much like a Hollywood blockbuster.

The movie is basically a re-telling of the prodigal son.

A man lives a wild, and reckless life until a traumatizing event forces him to flee in shame, until he learns the errors of his way, only to return triumphantly.....A hero.

It's stuff we've seen a thousand times before. I also think that the movie's ending will turn off a lot of his U.S. fans who just want mindless action, and fighting.

They just won't like the melodrama and Chinese nationalism.

It's obvious that the story is close to Jet Li's heart because he produced the film, and chose this story to be the last martial arts epic of his career.

But the truth is that the movie doesn't feel unique or special.

It's ambitious in it's aspirations, but ultimately it doesn't transcend the genre like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers , and to a lesser extent Hero seemed to do.

I recommend watching the film for the action, and fantastic fighting scenes, but don't expect Academy Award type consideration. This is a big Hollywood type movie in the mold of The Last Samurai.....except it's directed by Ronny Yu.



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1 comment:

Myst3r1o said...

I just seen Jet Li's Fearless on Friday, and I must honestly say that he did indeed save the best for last, in my humble opinion.

Great fighting sequences, great acting, great story.

Phenomenal movie.