Monday, May 14, 2007

RS Movie Review - Jet Li's Fearless

I have always enjoyed Jet Li's films, so I was very interested in seeing "Fearless," which was said to be not only Jet Li's masterpiece, but also his last wushu (Martial Arts) film.

I really liked one of Jet Li's earlier movies "Fist of Legend" which is said to be one of the definitive martial arts movies. I also really enjoyed "Once Upon A Time In China" which has been a very popular movie worldwide. (I must note, the sequels "Once Upon A Time In China II and III" were absolutely horrible IMHO. The second I could tolerate, but I couldn't even finish the third one.)

Interestingly, these three movies are connected. They all take place in the milieu of Westerners coming into China in the late 19th/early 20th century. Although they do show how other cultures came in an basically took advantage of China, they are also fair and show how many Chinese either did not help the situation or took advantage of the situation for selfish gains. "Fearless" could almost be a prequel to "Fist of Legend" in that the latter movie involves a Jing-Wu school, that is, a nationalist martial arts school founded by Jet Li's character, Huo Yuan Jia, in "Fearless."

Now the first five and a half minutes are some amazing fight sequences. However, this movie was very different from what I expected. It wasn't quite as action packed as the trailer leads you to believe. Yet, I really did enjoy it in spite of it being a very different style of movie than what I thought it would be.

Now comes the hard part. How do I review a movie without ruining any of it?

Well, it does not have any sex or language. However it does have some pretty violent scenes. Yet, these are not scenes of violence for the sake of violence, or even for just a "great action sequence," but they really do help tell the story of Huo Yuan Jia

I guess you could best describe it as a story of redemption and seeing the bigger picture. I recommend this movie if you don't mind some violence, although I would not call it gratuitous. I have the "Unrated Edition" of the DVD so I am sure it has a bit more violence than the theatrical version.

I think what I liked about this is that although it tries to teach that violence is not always the answer, it does not take a pacifist view. Sometimes fighting is necessary, that is just a fact of life. However, power is always to be used with responsibility and to serve.

What also makes this movie good is that you can tell that this is a movie that Jet Li really believed in. He wanted to make this movie to express his beliefs. Although he is a Tibetan Bhuddist, this movie does express a universal truth about power and responsibility.

It is a very interesting story that I found pretty original. And it is nice to have some pretty impressive fight sequences too. CG and wire-work were kept to a minimum. It is not your average kung fu plot line, but that is exactly the point. I highly recommend it for anyone who has enjoyed kung fu movies, but also likes an original and well thought out story. Anyone who enjoys seeing someone's personal journey to a realization will also enjoy this move.

PS - I read an interview with Jet Li that although this was his last wushu movie, thankfully it is not his last action movie. He felt that regarding martial arts, "Fearless" expressed all his beliefs and feelings about wushu (martial arts).

Here's the trailer for anyone interested.


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