"Fearless" is champion of all martial arts movies

Sept. 25, 2006, midnight | By Soraya Chanyasubkit | 17 years, 8 months ago

Last Li martial arts film is the best ever

Jet Li. Even his name sounds cool. Unlike the comical Jackie Chan or too fierce Tony Jaa, Jet Li exudes a vibe that just resonates awesome. He has publicly declared that this latest martial arts film is his last, much to the grief of every martial arts fan, but fortunately for them, "Jet Li's Fearless" will definitely leave a lasting impression.

The movie tells the inspirational tale of real-life Huo Yuanjia (Jet Li), a Wushu master who established the Jingwu Sports Federation at the beginning of 20th century China. Inspiring to become the Champion of Tianjin after getting severely beaten, Huo at first becomes an arrogant fighter with no respect for the martial arts. But after facing the mandatory emotional, physical and cultural obstacles, he learns the true spiritual side of Wushu.

In a martial arts movie, superb fighting choreography is basically a necessity. However, Yuen Woo-Ping, famous for choreographing moves in "The Matrix" trilogy, "Kill Bill" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," went all out in this movie. The always-confident Jet Li glides through the routines effortlessly, whether engaging in hand-to-hand combat against an old childhood rival, fighting against an American giant or a competing with katanas opposite a Japanese warrior.

Li's opponents in the movie are all outstanding fighters as well, such as Nathan Jones from "The Protector," who makes a reappearance as an impossibly huge strongman. The array of weapons in the film is also impressive, ranging from straight swords to spears to good old-fashioned hands. Yet another amazing aspect of "Fearless" is, much to the audience's surprise, that the actors can not only fight but act as well. Jet Li coins the respectful yet cocky smile which he gives after every victory. The relationship between Huo and his adorable daughter (Xu Ailing) is heartwarming, contrasting against the strict relationship Huo had with his own father (Collin Chou). The only character that is not quite as believable as the others though is Moon (Betty Sun), a sweet, blind village girl, who gives the mandatory "look into your heart" speech. The only problem in this picturesque scene is she does not act like she is blind. (To learn how to act like a blind person, she should have watched Zhang Ziyi in "House of Flying Daggers.")

There are many minor facets in this film that add to its overall quality. The wonderful cinematography compares the peaceful Chinese landscape to the inner turmoil of Huo to become the top Wushu master. The architecture in the movie particularly leaves the audience in awe. In one scene, a gymnasium is made of wood complete with amazingly high platforms, poles and logs where Huo and a competitor are expected to fight. The comedy in the movie is also simple and will invoke an appreciative laugh, like when Huo plants rice in a paddy so haphazardly that Moon must replant the whole area. A more serious aspect of the film is the inspiring theme of Chinese pride despite Western influence. The movie is definitely a tribute to Chinese culture, especially its spectacular martial arts.

Maybe because this movie is based on a true story, maybe because this movie is Jet Li's last martial arts film, maybe because this movie has the best martial arts choreography ever composed, but "Jet Li's Fearless" is a powerful movie, more so than any other Li film ever made.

"Jet Li's Fearless" (103 minutes, in Chinese with subtitles at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for violence and martial arts action.

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Soraya Chanyasubkit. Soraya Chanyasubkit loves her name, Thailand, penguins, eating, making fun of people and music. She is silly, mean, and friendly. (The last two qualities are in no way of being contradictory.) She most likely hates you. And will willing and loudly say so. More »

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