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FEARLESS (Director's Cut)


Genre: Martial Arts/Biopic
Cast: Jet Li, Sun Li, Shido Nakamura, Masato Harada, Nathan Jones, Collin Chou, Dong Yong, Michelle Yeoh
Director: Ronny Yu
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence)
Year Made: 2006



- A Fearless Journey: A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Jet Li's final Martial Arts Epic
- Photo Gallery



Languages: English/Traditional Chinese/Bahasa/Malay/Thai
Subtitles: English/Trad Chinese/Thai/Korean/Malay/
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Sound: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround Sound in Mandarin
Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround Sound in Mandarin
Running Time: 2 hrs 21 mins
Region Code: A/C
Distributor: Scorpio East




Inspired by the true story of a real-life hero, Fearless 《霍元甲》 is a thrilling masterpiece from action superstar Jet Li. Huo Yuanjia could be the world's most talented martial arts master, but a narcissistic streak proves to be his downfall. When an ill-advised fight destroys his reputation and his family, Yuanjia disappears into the Chinese wilderness in an attempt to figure out where he went wrong and his difficult path to redemption will bring him faceto- face with the most ferocious fighters in the world.


There was much fanfare when "Fearless" was released back in 2006, what if with Jet Li pronouncing it as his final martial arts epic. Well he did go on the next year to star in Peter Chan’s "The Warlords" with Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro, so whether he lived up to that promise is questionable. But to be honest, when this reviewer watched “Fearless” in the cinema, he was a little underwhelmed by it. Really? Was this to be Jet Li’s swan song?

Directed by Ronny Yu, "Fearless" was the biopic of martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia, the founder of the Jingwu Sports Federation and a major proponent in the art of wushu. But the three-part act in which the movie unfolded was all-too rushed, moving too swiftly from his days of arrogance in his quest to be the king of fighters in Tianjin to his subsequent downfall and finally to his journey of redemption as a hero of his country. Somehow, it seemed more like an excuse to showcase Jet Li’s own martial arts prowess, especially with Yuen Wo-Ping as action choreographer in the film.

This director’s cut restores almost 30 mins of footage into the film and I must say after viewing this version that I am very impressed by the movie. Perhaps the producers had originally thought that audiences would not have the patience to sit through more than 2 hours of introspection, so they decided to bill it no more than another Jet Li martial arts film. Yes, the film is introspection because watching it now, one gets the sense that Ronny Yu had meant for it to be a reflection of one man’s choices in life and how he eventually learnt from his mistakes to realise his destiny.

Where Yu has most substantially restored the film is in its second act- Huo Yuanjia’s downfall after his arrogance that led to the death of his own family and his voyage of self-discovery. Coming after the frenzy of the first third, this is the second act where the pace of the movie slows down considerably. Though the theatrical cut simply shows Huo befriending the village of rice farmers who save his life and winning the heart of a blind peasant girl, Moon (Betty Sun), Yu’s director’s cut restores a subplot involving a stolen ox and also develops much more convincingly his relationship with Moon.

That subplot proves to be a nice turning point for Huo Yuanjia, showing for the first time Huo’s endurance, rather than retaliation, when set upon by his opponent. It also shows his willingness to sacrifice, as he takes the place of punishment for a young boy from his village who was caught stealing an ox from a neighbouring one. Furthermore, with more time spent delineating the relationship between Huo and Moon, the film also brings forth more persuasively the redemptive power of Huo’s growing love for Moon.

Thanks to the extra depth, "Fearless" becomes much more than just a martial arts epic. Instead, Huo Yuanjia’s transformation is much more deeply felt, so much so there is an added emotional thrill watching the climactic fight between Huo Yuanjia and the four international fighters in a public tournament. Of course, those who have already watched the film will know that Jet Li is in top form here, and "Fearless" is a befitting showcase of his agility.

So the question really is- is this director’s cut worth your time if you’ve already seen the theatrical cut? I say yes, unreservedly. The film is much richer, more nuanced, and most definitely more emotionally satisfying than what was released in the cinema. In this form, I dare say that it fulfils Jet Li’s dream as an ode to the art of wushu, especially to the philosophy behind the classic martial arts form that is also Li’s own personal beliefs.


There is only one extra on this disc, A Fearless Journey: Behind the Scenes Featurette that is presumably made for Western audiences puzzled at why Jet Li has publicly proclaimed "Fearless" to be his last martial arts film. Though lean, one gets to hear from Jet Li what he intended for this movie to be, as well as witness the dynamic collaboration between him and Yuen Wo-Ping.


Presented in Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround, the disc’s audio track still concentrates very much on the front speakers and leaves much of the surround only to the film’s action scenes. Thanks to the Blu-ray treatment, the film’s visuals are exceptionally beautiful- the colours are rich, the details are fine and the vistas even more breathtaking- and the result is a great tribute to Poon Hang Seng’s excellent cinematography.



Review by Gabriel Chong

Posted on 30 December 2009


. Fearless (Movie Review)

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This review is made possible with the kind support from Scorpio East


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