Frank Dux has spent most his life being trained by Tanaka to participate in the Kumite, the ultimate martial arts tournament, where participants are seriously injured, even killed. Frank ... See full summary »
Jean-Claude Van Damme,
Martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia became the most famous fighter in all of China at the turn of the 20th Century. Huo faced personal tragedy but ultimately fought his way out of darkness and into history, defining the true spirit of martial arts. His self-discovery, and the choices he made, inspired his nation. The son of a great fighter who did not wish for his child to follow in his footsteps, the bullied Huo Yuanjia resolves to teach himself how to fight - and win. Years of training enable him to ace match after match in his home region of Tianjin. But as his fame as a martial arts master grows, so does his pride. After an ill-advised fight leads to another master's death, members of Huo's family are slain in revenge. Grieving and ashamed, Huo wanders the country in shock. Near death, he is rescued by women from an idyllic village, and is offered simple kindness and generosity that help him heal and regain his equilibrium over a period of several years. Huo realizes that the future ... Written by
In the beginning of the movie, Anno Tanaka is shown wearing his blue robe, then the white vomit-stained robe, which does not appear until the end of the movie, then the blue robe again. See more »
Since there's no superiority or inferiority in Wushu, why still have competition?
Huo Yuan Jia:
I believe that there's no superiority or inferiority in Wushu. Just the distinction of practitioners with different levels of ability. Through the competition we can discover this and meet the true self. Because indeed the antagonist is namely ourself. Only through competition, can one recognise one's true self.
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Fearless has a similar structure to last years' Unleashed (2005), in that this is not just a martial arts extravaganza, but also a film with heart and proper acting on the part of Jet Li. This latest effort, despite flaws, is the much more accomplished of the two works; both contain exceptional and brutal fight scenes, and a central 'drama' section where Li's character learns about life and about who he is, and both of these aspects are handled better in Fearless.
Based on actual events, the story focuses on Li's Huo Yuanjin, martial arts master whose family is murdered and who flees his home, only to be taken in by simple farmers. Spending many years there, Huo learns to embrace peace and live out his simple life with the villagers. However, he is tempted back to his home town in an effort to show the foreign powers that are flooding China that the Chinese people are unified, and will not be suppressed by foreigners. He sets up a martial arts school and competes in a four-way tournament to prove that he is the greatest fighter in the world.
Make no mistake; the main appeal to the film is the fight sequences. Courtesy of the ever versatile Yuen Wo Ping, (The Matrix Trilogy, Crouching Tiger) the staggering fight choreography manages to combine the graceful moves of Hero (2002) with the brutality of Unleashed to create possibly the greatest action scenes put to film, aided by Jet Li's so-good-it-looks-easy martial arts capabilities. The film starts as it means to go on, and contains plenty of inventive action, the main highlights being a colossal one-on-one in a restaurant and of course the climactic four-way tournament.
The film is not all action though; at its centre is the time spent with the villagers where Huo 'finds himself'. This is perhaps the films weakest point, but it is held up by the fact that Jet Li, showing he's not only a martial arts expert, can actually act. However, the scenes are lacking, from a scripting and directing point of view, enough emotional depth to allow us to truly get involved. Being based on a true story the film had to play out as it did, but one feels that Huo could have gone anywhere to find himself, even stayed at home and become a recluse. Director Ronnie Yu lacks the directorial range to let these scenes flourish, so the section begins to bog itself down with unnecessary sentimentality. However, it is a more developed section than the comparable parts in Unleashed and although maybe is too short it could have been developed into much more it at least doesn't outstay its welcome. Jet Li is good though, and nicely moves from the arrogance of his early days to the wiser warrior in the second half.
Fearless shows us a moralistic China that is ruled by an honour that is now lost amongst the modern world, and its portrayal of upholding traditional values is a welcome move; it gives the film purpose, and not just an excuse to make good action scenes. Ironically, the films message is one of anti-violence, and if this is indeed to be Jet Li's last martial arts film, then he has gone out on a high.
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