Director: Ronny Yu
Starring: Jet Li, Nakamura Shido, Collin Chou,
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: BVI
Day: 26 January 2006 (Chinese New Year Blockbuster!)
on the life of Martial Artsmaster Huo Yuanjia (1868-1910),
this biopic is set during the late 1800's to early 1900's,
a pivotal period in China's history, when the whole country
is shrouded under increasing internal turmoil and the imminent
threat of foreign invasion.
Yuanjia begins the story as a cocky, young Martial Arts practitioner
with only one thing in his mind, to become the best at his
craft at all costs. His quest eventually leads to a tragedy
when he mistakenly kills an opponent whose disciples consequently
slaughter Huo's whole family for revenge. A distraught and
heartbroken Huo flees to the countryside, determined to abandon
everything he ever wanted and believed in. He then spends
considerable time in a remote mountain village anonymously,
where he relearned all the things that matter in life while
taking refuge with an old lady and her half blind granddaughter.
He returns to the city to make amends with his turbulent past,
and gets swept up in a violent, fight to the death Martial
Arts tournament to defend China's honor against foreign aggressors.
(or Huo Yuan Jia in Chinese) is the latest and perhaps his
last Wushu film by Jet Li. The motivation for Jet Li behind
this film production came about from the recent high suicide
rates among the youth in China. Feeling dismayed about how
little regard the youth have of their own lives, Jet Li set
out to inspire the youths to live their lives with a stronger
spirit, very much like what the legendary martial artist,
Huo Yuan Jia, did in his lifetime.
Jia was the famous Chinese martial artist who defeated foreign
martial artists in highly publicized matches during when China
was “overwhelmed” by the European and Japanese’s
“invasion”. It was during this time when many
foreigners labeled Chinese as the “Sick Men of Asia”
and through the highly publicized matches that he won over
the foreigners, Huo Yuan Jia helped to instill the confidence
and pride back to the Chinese citizens.
man went on with the foundation of Jing Wu Men or Jing Wu
Athletic Association in Shanghai, which aimed to spread the
concepts and virtues of Wushu to his countrymen. His name
saw another bout of revival when Bruce Lee played one of his
disciples in “Fist of Fury” which made him one
of the better well-known personalities among the Chinese.
(The One & Unleashed) together with Director Ronny Yu
(Freddy Vs Jason & Bride of Chucky) and action choreographer
Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix franchise & Kill Bill) had all
returned from their tour of duties in the USA to create the
movie Fearless to bring the life of this legendary man life
back on screen again.
from the trio was a rather mix bag.
start with the action sequences. By the sheer mention of Jet
Li and Yuen Woo-Ping names, high expectations of the action
sequences are expected. The fight scenes between Huo Yuan
Jia and his many opponents are the usual spectacular Jet Li
and Yuen Woo-Ping stuff that brought them to fame throughout
the world. There is nothing wrong with it but then again there
isn’t any real breakthrough or fight sequences that
will becomes a classic moment in the long stream of Kungfu
movies to come. One also does get bored after seeing the same
manner of fights conducted over and over again even if the
actions are well executed.
and characterization was also weakened when the screen time
focused too much on the fighting sequences in Fearless instead
of building the plots and characters. It started out well
with the young Huo Yuan Jia who has a strong yearning for
martial arts but was banned by his father who ran a martial
arts school as the young Huo Yuan Jia was suffering from asthma.
the movie skipped from how the young Huo Yuan Jia who was
shamefully defeated by another young ward from a rival clan
in a sparring match to being married with a daughter and becoming
a undefeated Wushu champion in his hometown. Omitting an interesting
actual events on what Huo Yuan Jia did to convince his father
to coach him Wushu and in a way denying the audience to grow
with this character.
it jumps to a number of tournaments that witnesses the increasing
arrogance of the undefeated Huo Yuan Jia and soon tragedy
strikes the Wushu champion, forcing him to rethink his actions
and goals in life. However the retreat that Huo Yuan Jia took
was too short and lacks of strong philosophical lessons to
build on a convincing transformation of a bashful young man
to a wiser martial art master.
Jet Li’s intention to use this movie as a motivation
for today’s youth was commendable. However the execution
was not that well carried off and the message that Jet Li
wanted to bring across could be lost in the midst of seemly
endless bouts of fights. A rather surprising choice for a
Chinese New Year film as the movie endings felt bleak and
sad even thought the underlying message is doing the best
with the uncertainties in life. It’s won’t be
a Jet Li classic that it’s been hyped up to be but then
it’s a decent movie that’s worth going for.
is not Jet Li’s finest moment but for a Chinese New
Year movie, it’s more than sufficient to entertain)
by Richard Lim Jr