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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
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
by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 30 December 2009