"Jet Li's Fearless"
Directed by Ronny Yu.
Written by Chris Chow.
Starring Jet Li, Yong Dong, Betty Sun and Shido Nakamura.
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 10/1/06
If this really is Jet Li's final martial
arts epic, "Jet Li's Fearless" was a solid exit from the genre.
"Fearless" doesn't touch some of Li's more
legendary stuff, like
"Once Upon a Time in China" (the first one) or "Fist of Legend",
but it still gives The People a great mix of some bad-ass action and
a story that is quite engaging. In the early 1900s, a Chinese
martial arts master named Huo Yuanjia (Li) rises from the son of a
small-town martial arts legend to the best fighter in his home town
to clan leader. After challenging the best that his town has
to offer, he fights the reigning town champ and his clan...and,
after this fight and an unfortunate series of accidents, Huo finds
himself in a remote village under the care of a blind woman (Betty
Sun) who teaches him what is truly important about life and the
people of China. Huo returns to society a changed--and notably
more peaceful--man, and when a coalition of British powermongers
comes to China and belittles the Chinese people by proposing a fight
between the world's best fighters and whatever trash China can put
up, Huo steps forward to take on the best of the best.
This is based on the true story of Yuanjia's
life, so not knowing the true background here leaves me unable to
question some of the story's main elements. But, what is here
is mostly engaging; Yuanjia's story is somewhat familiar in terms of
his rise from nobody to People's Champion, but the execution is
sharp thanks to the charisma of Li and the fight choreography of
Yuen Woo-ping (jeez, "The Matrix" is now the most famous work for
folks in this country, but everything he touches turns out lovely).
The film's main set piece, as Huo fights the other major city
champion mid-film, is fantastic; there are only three or four fights
worth talking about but those are all very well done.
But, because so much of the film's second
half is fight-free, you have to be entertained by watching Huo just
kind of get it, just kind of realize that life's about much more
than fighting, and director Ronny Yu ("Freddy
vs. Jason", if that can be believed) does good work with making
the transition from action film to personal drama in "Fearless."
The scenes between the blind woman and Huo are done well; when Huo
comes back to society and goes through pieces of his past--leading
up to the federation's competition--it isn't rushed, and I'm glad it
didn't turn back into an action film. "Fearless" works as a
drama no matter what the language (this film is subtitled
throughout) thanks to Li's surprisingly good acting abilities, which
have begun to surface a bit following his work in
here in "Fearless."
Not a bad little movie. In the dumping
ground that is September, "Fearless" is one of the few films out
right now that is worth seeing.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard