It's a heroic tale of three blood brothers and their struggle in the midst of war and political upheaval. It is based on "The Assassination of Ma," a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) story about ... See full summary »
During the Japanese invasion of 1937, when a wealthy martial artist is forced to leave his home and work to support his family, he reluctantly agrees to train others in the art of Wing Chun for self-defense.
Set in late 19th century Canton this martial arts film depicts the stance taken by the legendary martial arts hero Wong Fei-Hung (1847-1924) against foreign forces' (English, French and ... See full summary »
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
The first Jet Li movie which I watched as a little boy, was his Shaolin Temple. Jet next shot to fame and prominence with the various Chinese folk heroes that he played in the late 80s and 90s, like Wong Fei Hong, Fong Sai Yuk, Zhang San Feng, and even taking on Bruce Lee's Chen Zhen role in a Fist of Fury remake called Fist of Legend. In Fearless, he plays martial arts master Huo Yuanjia / Fok Yuen Gaap, whom I presume most who are familiar with Fist of Fury, will know who this chap is.
Like Fong Sai Yuk, Jet's portrayal of Huo Yuanjia starts off like Fong, who initially is a cocky person, proud of his skills, but nothing interests him more than the challenge in the ring. He's uninterested in politics (at that time China was being "invaded" by shiploads of foreigners), and adopts a whole host of disciples who prove to be his downfall.
Also like Fong, we see Huo reeling from his carefree days, get into some serious soul searching, before returning for the finale. But Huo returns a more calm and measured person, setting up the famous Jing Wu Sports Federation, and taking on a whole host of foreign fighters to inspire his countrymen that they are not the "sick men of the east".
As this is much touted as Jet Li's final martial arts film, it's plain obvious of the messages he wished to use this platform to spread. Scattered throughout the film are various martial arts, and probably life philosophy on themes like respect and responsibility, that violence isn't the means to an end. Somehow you forgive the fact that it's so blatant, and it seemed to work well into the plot and narrative, given that Huo's mission in setting up Jing Wu, is for that purpose to, to "spread the word" so to speak. From his early days of Chinese battling Chinese for the "Number 1 pugilist" title, Huo learnt that instead of fighting each other, they should unite in the face of new and external threats, but yet to remember not to neglect the home front, which he personally experienced from tragedy.
But no, the kungfu doesn't suffer from those messages though. In probably one of the most violent Jet Li movies (it's rated NC-16 here, and no cuts detected, except for the absence of Michelle Yeoh's scenes which ended up on the cutting room floor), with bone crunching and blood spewing - you might think that Tony Jaa's acting in it. And director Ronny Yu takes his time to showcase many of Li's moves, be it plain martial arts moves with the fists, with the various weapons used, or Yuen Wo Ping's jazzed up wire work for some of Huo's fights.
And there are many fights which will keep the action fans happy. Though the much touted ones shown ad nausem in trailers against the foreign legion, seemed a bit short in the final product. The filmmakers did keep one awesome fight scene under wraps though, and that is between Huo and nemesis Mister Chin in a teahouse - wreaking tables, chairs, flipping around pillars, navigating through different floors, and ending up in the wine cellar.
It's probably a fitting end to signal Jet's departure from the martial arts movie scene, with the portrayal of Huo given the known circumstances of what happened to the character. Though there are various interpretations, the essence is retained well in the movie. It is inevitable, and there is no Chen Zhen character to distract the audience from what is essentially a showcase movie for Jet Li.
(P.S. I still can't figure out how Michelle Yeoh would have played out in the movie, and no disrespect to her, I thought it worked well, except perhaps for the unnecessary lengthy middle where Huo was searching for himself)
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