Written by Chris Chow
Directed by Ronny Yu
Running Time: 1:44
for violence and martial arts action throughout.
Jet Li's Fearless was a so-so film with great fight sequences but a story that made me want to take a nap.
Huo Yuanjin was the son of a street fighter, but who picked on himself. After getting beaten up by a bully, he is determined to learn how to fight, and never lose. But the more he wins, the more full of himself he becomes, until one night he kills a great champion for mistaken reasons. This leads to a serious case of retaliation which in turn leads to Huo banishing himself from his life. When he returns, his hometown is no longer the same. It has been taken up by foreigners. Huo then started the Jingwu Sports Federation in order to help him come to grips with his past and restore honor in his family. Fearful of his popularity, the Foreign Chamber of Commerce sets up a tournament where he is pitted against great fighters from four different countries. The outcome is one that the people of China will never forget.
Jet Li's Fearless is based on the real life story of Huo Yuanjin but unfortunately that doesn't make the movie any more entertaining. First off however, the fight scenes. As with most Jet Li films, the fight scenes are pretty intense. Some of them are painful to watch but most of the time it's like watching a dance. In fact, the fight scenes in martial arts epics are becoming so choreographed, they may as well be dances. I'm not a huge martial arts fan, but I do enjoy a good fight sequence when it's done right, and that is the one thing you can always get from a Jet Li film. But with that comes expectations. You go in to his movies expecting good action sequences, so then it's left to the rest of the movie to entertain you. Unless of course the entire movie is one long fight scene, which I would imagine would be hard to do.
So that leaves the story. Initially it seemed like it was going to be interesting, what with Huo being beaten up as a child and wanting to then learn how to fight and never lose again. I thought maybe the movie would be about his learning how to fight and not losing again. Instead we jump ahead to a time where he's already gotten a pretty big reputation. So that made me wonder where the movie was headed. He then fights (and beats) the bully who hurt him earlier. So that story line was taken care of quickly. We then jump to where he fights another grand master who was, mistakenly as it turns out, accused of beating up one of Huo's disciples. This leads, as I mentioned earlier, to some retaliation, which I didn't expect.
Once Huo leaves his life he ends up wandering the countryside like a lost soul until he meets the requisite blind woman who shows him what a good heart he has. Clichéd to say the least. Then he returns and gets into the final fight. Basically, any time there wasn't a fight scene, I was bored. The story just wasn't very interesting or intriguing to me. It took a lot of twists and turns that I didn't see coming, but I think that was because I didn't really care which way it went. In movies like Hero for instance, there were tremendous fight sequences, but also a story that drew me in and kept me entertained in between the fights. In Fearless the 'story' became nothing more than filler to me, and not anything good. I never cared about Huo or any of the other characters. It's sad to say, but his ego got the best of him and he got what he deserved. How could I feel sorrow for him when he killed someone without hearing the full story? He caused destruction in a family for no reason and I should feel bad when it happens to him?
And then he goes into seclusion where he plants things in water and talks to a blind woman. I still never felt redemption for him. He hadn't done something so good that he should be redeemed in my eyes. And then when he returns and takes on the four foreign competitors, that was the time where he should be redeemed, but still... there was nothing there. Was he doing it for his country? Or just for himself? Did he ever really get over himself? The only guy that I thought showed any real emotion or held my attention was the Japanese fighter that took on Huo last. He at least showed that he cared about someone other than himself.
The extras on this DVD are few and far between. This is kind of surprising since this film has always been billed as Jet Li's final martial arts epic. You'd imagine they'd go all out with the extras. Yet, all they have is a deleted scene and a single featurette. Kind of disappointing for Jet Li fans. This of course leads me to believe that at some point in the near future there will have to be a special edition version. The movie didn't translate any better for me on the small screen, but it didn't lose anything either. Unlike other martial arts epics, I thought this movie was more about the story than the look, so seeing it on a TV screen isn't a bad way to go.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I thought Jet Li's Fearless was a decent movie because of the fight scenes, but the story line didn't keep me entertained. Since this is supposed to be Jet Li's final martial arts epic, I suppose it's something that should be seen, but be warned, it's not as good as his past films.
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