Wo hu cang long (2000)

reviewed by
Berge Garabedian


CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON
RATING: 7.5/10 --> Very good movie

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The concept of wire-fu, a hyped up style of kung-fu using wires on film, has been running rampant since THE MATRIX popularized it last year. The two most prominent movies of this year to utilize the technique in their films were ROMEO MUST DIE and CHARLIE'S ANGELS, who basically just used it as a "charge" to distract from their lack of actual story. But with this film, director Ang Lee wants to take the element of kung-fu fighting to another level...that's right, fighting interspersed with an actual plot line!

PLOT: A great warrior preparing for "retirement" decides to pursue one last battle, as his legendary sword is stolen. Alongside his good friend, for whom he restrains a secret love, he sets out to get the sword back and take revenge upon the woman who killed his master.

CRITIQUE: An epic in every sense of the word, this film combines some of the coolest fight sequences ever put to the big screen with majestic cinematography and an all-encompassing tale of love, honor and fantasy. And by fantasy, I mean people literally flying across rooftops and fighting against one another while standing on skinny tree branches. That's right, you can pretty much forget about the concept of gravity in this movie! People fly while running, walk across water and run up walls in this film. Real cool stuff if you get "into it", but definitely unbelievable if you're not in on the spell. Which brings me to the actual story of the film. A hundred times better than most Hong Kong martial arts flicks, I can't say that I was mesmerized by this sorted tale. In fact, I thought some of the scenes were a little boring, especially the middle ones in the desert, which went on a little too long. I also didn't really get emotionally attached to any of the characters, or feel much for them by the end of the film. The story wasn't a bad one, it's just that some of the plot points nagged at me somewhat. Here are these great warriors searching for the evil Jade Fox, and even though she's the governess of the girl they're quite familiar with, they don't recognize her? And what about their relationship to the girl? Every time they see her, they either fight or embrace her. A little too ambiguous for my taste. But maybe that's just me.

I did however enjoy the overall story which effectively combined dramatic elements with humor, action and even a touch of romance. For me, the best parts of the movie were obviously the battle scenes, which just blew my friggin' eyes away! In fact, I suspect that most people who see this movie will find themselves staring at the screen and wondering how the hell they managed to put together all of those cool moves. But again, if wire-fu stunts don't do it for you, and fast-motion fight scenes ain't your cup of tea, don't go into this movie expecting GONE WITH THE WIND. It's a wonderfully photographed picture, with beautiful details in the settings, its authenticity and the obvious language spoken (the film is in Mandarin with English subtitles), but its wonder resonates most with its fight sequences, and if that sort of thing doesn't impress you, this film likely isn't for you. And for once, all of the actual fight scenes were filmed flawlessly. Really believable. For me, those were the elements which worked best in this film. Awesome, awesome battles, beautifully shot and an okay story.

Review Date: December 8, 2000
Director: Ang Lee
Writers: James Schamus, Wang Hui Ling, and Tsai Kuo Jung
Producers: Ang Lee, Li-Kong Hsu, William Kong
Actors: Chow Yun Fat as Li Mu Bai
Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien
Zhang Ziyi as Jen
Genre: Drama/Action
Year of Release: 2000
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(c) 2000 Berge Garabedian

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