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Although the film was generally concerned with the development of a specific fighting style and philosophy, the audience is also treated to some authenticity of the then Chinese culture and the biography of a Chinese martial arts master. These features seem to give the production a much higher level of credibility than the average martial arts action movie.
Although we did experience some speed editing in fight scenes, it was done in such a way that it enhanced, rather than detracted, from the believability of the film. In "House of Flying Daggers", for example, the ballet and acrobatic like choreography of some of the fight scenes tended to undermine, rather than enhance. If there was any flaw in the fight scenes present, it was minor. This flaw may have been inescapable because of the inherent limitations of the style of the film itself. For example, trivial features such as disconnected striking combinations at the expense of speed editing, or the fact that the Japanese martial artist did not seem to be using a typical Japanese style of fighting. (It appeared to be a combination of Chinese and Korean oriented styles).
This film should, by all rights, reset the bar for the standards of martial arts films from now on. It was simply an outstanding film in every way.
The plot is simple. I think everyone here knows about it, so I won't spent time talking too much about it. Jet Li plays Huo Yuan Jia, an arrogant young man that has no regard for human life so to speak, and in one brash move, he indirectly caused the death of his family. He journey to a remote village to learn humility. This is probably the weakest part of the film. Mainly because a large part of it was cut out from the theatrical release. Huo had a few dialogues with Betty Sun, who played a blind girl. Their relationship was very underdeveloped. And Huo's return to Shanghai to fight was with brevity, and hardly explained. He returns to Shanghai and defends his country's honor.
I thought Jet Li did a great job acting both as the arrogant man and as the wiser wushu master. But people of course, came to see Jet Li fight. And to me, the earlier fight scenes are good, but have too much computer effects and slow motion. Still, it was refreshing to see Jet Li return to using Chinese Kung Fu.
The best fight scenes in the movie are definitely the battle between Huo and Nathan Jones, the hulking giant and the weapons fight between the Japanese Samurai and Jet Li using the sword against the three sectional staff. The ending was very emotional, and it was refreshing to see a different take unlike most endings of old Jet Li movies.
The movie could have been better of course, but I was very satisfied with it, both the plot and the action sequences.
Worked together with director Ronny Yu of The Bride With White Hair and Freddy VS Jason, Fearless marks the return of Jet and Ronny in the Asia market from Hollywood failures such as Lethal Weapon 4, The One and Formula 51.
Jet portrays the life of martial art master Huo Yuan Jia, which is also the Chinese title for the film. Fearless surrounds how he restored the pride and glory of the Chinese during the early 1900's from the intrusion and invasion of the Western powers and the growing Japanese power, where they have been calling the Chinese 'the sick man of Asia.' Huo Yuan Jia proves them wrong by accepting the challenges of the American fighters, the British and Spanish fighters, and the Japanese samurai Tanaka (Japanese actor Shidou Nakamura of Ima, Ai Ni Yukimasu or Be With You fame.) But before we have the showdown before Tanaka and Huo, we are introduced to the past of Huo, who was then a proud and arrogant fighter who wants to make himself the one and only invincible fighter of TianJin (Huo's hometown.) His arrogance and past victory from the competition indirectly leads to the death of his mother and daughter, where he killed one of his opponent just to prove that he is invincible.
Huo lost his sanity after the death of his loved ones, and he drowns into a river, where he was saved by a young lady and her granny. Living with them for 7 years makes Huo realize the real meaning of martial arts, which he eventually sets up Jing Wu Martial Art School, to promote the value of strengthening and developing Mind, Body and Soul.
Previously stated in his interview on making a movie that he truly ones, Jet Li has achieved his objective in Fearless. Unlike any other B-Action flick focusing on how well the actor fights, Fearless carry the message of not to resort violence to settle any problem, where we can see how violence did to Huo's loved ones.
The showdown between Huo and other foreign fighters also promotes the idea of sparing your enemy a chance, no matter how deadly they could be. This, somehow, reflects on part of the idea and philosophy Jet Li understands and promotes from his one year Buddhism studies.
Director Ronny Yu has also made the right choice of casting Jet Li as Huo Yuan Jia, after Jet portrays Huang Fei Hong in his remarkable Once Upon A Time Trilogy. This has once again strengthen the image of Jet Li as the Chinese hero among the Chinese around the world.
Casting Shidou Nakamura as Tanaka (one of the main supporting cast) is fresh and new, where he was more well known for his role of Takumi, the husband who had an encounter with his late wife in Ima, Ai Ni Yukimasu. Nakamura was more well for romantic and heart warming dramas. The showdown between Jet and Nakamura has not only make Fearless a must watch, but also the climax of the film.
However, Fearless is badly edited from the original 150 min version. To fit in the market demand, Fearless has been mercilessly chopped into a 103 min theatrical version. Michelle Yeoh, who makes a special appearance in Fearless, has been unfortunately removed. The duel between Jet Li and Thai boxer has also been removed, sad to say. Somehow, the movie has make the audience wants to go for something more than 103 min version.
Hope that the DVD release of Fearless will not disappoint the fans of Jet Li and anyone who loves the film with the deleted scenes. Apart from that, Fearless is remarkable. Definitely a must watch !
Jet Li plays a very important character in Chinese history, one that made Chinese people feel proud in a time when all their traditions were torn up by the interaction with the West. One can interpret the message of the movie in many ways. It is a movie about conquering yourself, about the meaning of honor and what it really means to be respected. Jet Li's character evolves from basically a glorified bully to the founder of a true Martial Arts competition based on respect of people and of fighting art. It is also a movie about how industry screws up... everything, really.
I personally feel that the film had enough material to be turned into a mini-series. The time from his personal tragedy to his realizing the meaning of his father's words it's very short and could have been expanded.
In conclusion, this is a great movie of Jet Li's and it's not only for martial arts lovers. I feel that his last "block busters" were meaningless violence films. Fearless is obviously NOT one of these movies. Enjoy.
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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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)
The acting is OK. Nothing really enticing, but this is a kung-fu movie, so we don't exactly expect Shakespeare (albeit Hero was case against this point). Nonetheless Jet Li is a maestro and all other opponents he meets on the ring are distinctive and complete the storyline in as much as is necessary.
The storyline may not exactly be award-winning, but it is very appealing and actually quite well done, giving this kung-fu movie a real human feel to it. This allowed for quite an impressive character build-up of Jet Li's portrayal of the legendary Huo Yuan Jia. Historical script liberties can be taken for granted, because all in all we have a heart-warming story with a lot of impressive (if not ground-breaking) fights to complement each other.
Definitely a good movie and maybe I gave it one or two bonus stars, but you just can't not be impressed by Jet Li, who is a complete kung-fu actor (not only has the moves, but also conveys the emotions).
The movie starts with a bang. Quite literally... after a brief prologue-ish type text, and panning through a CG Shanghai, era 1910, the movie goes straight into a spectacular display of martial arts of Jet Li (the little man) versus the big boys (people about twice his size....)
...A fantastic beginning, methinks. However, this may also be true for those people who have seen a lot of Jet Li movies, I can't help but think, some of the time, during the fight scenes, "I swear I've seen him do that before...". Don't let that distract you from this film though, as I believe that Ronny Yu (the director) compliments Jet Li's style and even adds an element of power that never really seems there (apart from in Fist of Legend... which is a sort of remake of Fist of Fury... which is a story about Chen Zhen who was Hua Yuan Jia's student... confused? You should be.... you should be.... (at this point I should say that Chen Zhen was fictional but Hua Yuan Jia is not...)). That is actually a roundabout way of me saying that the beginning was great...
The rest of the film then goes into the past and tells the story of how YuanJia got to that point of playing with the big boys... And I must admit that for the first time since Once Upon a Time in China (the first one), I actually believed that Jet Li was acting... He starts off as an arrogant and strong-willed man, who eventually, through a chain of events turns into a weak, pathetic and destroyed man before finishing off as an honourable, deep and heroic man after spending time reassessing himself and the world around him. It was great to watch because the progression was believable... ^^,
The film itself was well paced and well shot. The action scenes were brilliant throughout and the music really made you feel the moment. This film is a great way to finish off his (Jet Li) martial arts movie career, mixing philosophy with martial arts (as it was meant to be really). It's just a shame that some of his US movies tarnished his filmography (let us please forget, "The One"), but Jet Li is leaving the martial arts world with a CRUNCH and a BANG...
Go watch this movie. It is great (though I didn't like the way they put 'wushu' in the subtitles instead of 'martial arts'... but that could be just me....) :D
Unlike a lot of other films in the genre that have a plot to help string together scenes, this has a great plot, and characters that have some emotional reality as opposed to the good vs. evil stick figures watchers of this type of movie have come to exist.
It's a gorgeous movie from beginning to end. Whether the scenes take place inside or out, the cinematography is breath-taking.
Jet Li, actually has emotions in the movie. A break from everything I've seen him in, with the notable exception of "Kiss of the Dragon" Go see this movie - Twice
After playing famous historical figures such as Wong Fei-Hung and Fong Sai-Yuk he returns to create what could be described as a prequel of Fist of Legend, playing Huo Yuanjia, made famous from Leung-Kar Yan's portrayal in Legend of a Fighter, and Bruce Lee and Jet Li have both played his top student, Chen Zen.
Jet Li uses the film to put across his philosophy on violence and martial arts, which is told in such a way as to not be patronising even if it is obvious. In recent years he has shown his frustration at how his films are perceived as encouraging violence as a solution. Sadly the debate about who would win a fight between Bruce Lee and himself will probably continue to haunt him, even 30 years and more after the former's tragic death. I believe this film should have a wider audience than just martial arts fans, as it carries a poignant message, that Jet has also tried to convey in Hero and Unleashed (Danny the Dog). It must be noted that Fearless is far more tolerant than other Huo Yuanjia films, especially Fist of Fury where all the Japanese were depicted as degenerate or just plain evil. Compare that with the Japanese characters in Fearless, especially Tanaka, played with great gravitas by Shido Nakamura.
The action does not disappoint in Fearless, with the numerous fight scenes being well choreographed by his extremely frequent collaborator Yuen Woo-Ping. There is enough wire work involved to annoy purists, but there are plenty of grounded moves, with Jet showing off his skills with the spear, sabre and three-section-staff to good effect. The most exciting of the action scenes is Huo Yuanjia fighting against Master Chin.
There are a few issues in pacing, perhaps due to the removal of Michelle Yeoh's scenes, but it does detract much from the overall quality, and simply making films longer does not necessarily improve them - e.g. Alexander.
The acting is convincing and all the characters are beautifully portrayed, with few big names in Chinese cinema involved other than Jet himself, which in no way detracts from the portrayal. Betty Sun in particular creates a large impact even though her scenes do not take up much of the running time. This is backed by another haunting score from Shigeru Umbayashi (House of Flying Daggers), who seems to have replaced Tan Dun in scoring Chinese epics.
Overall this has become one of my favourite Jet Li films and I have seen all but a handful of them. The sense of tragedy and morality is well balanced with the action, and does not leave a bad taste in the mouth compared to many martial arts films where revenge is considered the only option.
Then an interesting thing happened. In 1993, he made "The bride with white hair", which is both a martial arts yarn and a heart-breaking love story adapted from a well-known martial art novel that most local high-school kids in the 60s would have read. A few years later Hollywood was looking for a change in the formulaic horror genre that the public had long grown tired of. "When they saw The Bride with White Hair, maybe because of the exotic atmosphere, they identified it with the horror genre", Ronny Yu observed with a chuckle. A Hong Kong director could be what they wanted, to bring something new.
Yu did bring something new, a comical dimension to "Bride of Chucky". It was not easy for Yu to convert to the Hollywood system because in Hong Kong, the director is king. To wait, like a defendant waiting for the jury's verdict, for a randomly picked sample of mass movie-goers' "report card" on the test screening of your movie is not something that a pampered Hong Kong director can often handle. To see your movie re-edited (sometimes drastically) based on these pedestrian views is even tougher to stomach. Yu, however, has the maturity to understand that the system is market-driven and everything boils down to dollars and cents, and nothing more. You just have to play by the rules of the game. "Bride of Chucky" was obviously a success, as Yu was asked to take on "Freddy vs Jason", not an easy task as both are household names to the horror genre fan population. While not a huge success "F v J" was reasonably well received and, a little to his own amusement, Ronny Yu became an established Hollywood horror-comedy director. But he wants to do more than that.
There is no room for comedy in "Fearless". It is about a person who in a most revered icon in the world of Chinese martial arts as well as modern Chinese history. HUA Yuan Jia's story is truly inspiring, not only in its period significant in Chinese history, but also in a more universal realm of the highest ideal of wushi, or martial arts, as a path towards self-realisation, very much in line with Bruce Lee's philosophy. Yu treats the subject matter with respect. Although there is a fair amount of "preaching", he sensibly refrains from sensationalised emotion stirring tricks. Very brutal action sequences are balanced with most serene scenes, such as rice planters stopping in unison to listen to the sound of nature, the breeze rustling the leaves.
In an hour-long radio interview, director Yu explained what a wushi movie really is about a real life person who has made contributions to the world of martial arts. The action sequence, therefore, should be as realistic as possible. To do this, we must have a true wushi expert, and Jet Li is of course just the best one. By the same token, his opponents should be reasonably seasoned martial artists. He then went on to explain that in Fearless, he has tried to minimise using camera techniques but instead shot the bouts and parries with a straight take and let the actors do their job. In this I was a little disappointed, as there was less of what he has promised, and certainly nothing as spontaneous and brilliant as the Donnie Yan and WU Jing duel in "Saat Po Long". But I shouldn't be too critical as this is, after all, not a wushi documentary but a commercial movie. The camera is in fact extremely well used, with excellent editing, putting the action sequences with the best I've seen.
In "Danny the dog" Jet Li has demonstrated that he can act. In "Fearless" he brings out well the contrast between the abrasive and the humbled Hua in the two halves of the movie. The only other role that has some meat is the Japanese challenger (the all-goodness blind girl is not difficult to do). As much as I like the guy (particularly in "Be with you" or "Ima, ai ni yukimasu"), Shido Nakamura is miscast. Despite good acting ability, he simply does not have that fierce intensity to portray the top notch Japanese martial art expert. More suitable would be Ken Watanabe or Hiroyuki Sanada, both in "The Last Samurai" and the latter also in "Twilight Samurai".
my name daijinren is from zhuang-zi,a taoism classic,if you know the meaning of this name,you'll understand one part of Chinese spirits.
Fearless is too short,but excellent,it is a real masterpiece!not Hero or CTHD.
In the movie, Jet Li portrays real-life Chinese figure Huo Yuan Jia, a famous martial artist. as child, Huo had asthma, and that had forbid him to study Wushu by order of his father. Huo eventually grows up and does begin officially training in Wushu. With his exceptional talent in martial arts, Huo becomes very arrogant, and wants only to be known as the best fighter there is. Day and night, rain or shine, he seeks to challenge others and defeat them in duels. As he gains fame, more want to be trained by him. However, things quickly go downhill for him. He kills an older Wushu master in an unofficial fight inside a restaurant because the master had attacked one of his students. Even so, Huo nearly loses the will to live after taking a life. It also costs him his friendship with a close friend, who ran the restaurant. When he discovers the old master attacked his student because the student slept with the master's wife, and the master's godson kills Huo's mother and daughter as payback, Huo leaves town and falls into a river, waiting for death.
Huo is rescued by seamen, however, and taken to a hillside country village. There he meets a blind woman who shows him the compassion in life. Huo develops a new way of thinking and a new view on life. Eventually he returns to his home town, and discovers the foreigners abusing the Chinese. Huo must patch things up with his old friend to get the money to reopen his school and enter a tournament against foreign fighters.
A very compelling story. It helps us remember the true meaning of the martial arts. As for the action scenes, I think Jet did intend this to be his last epic movie. That's because the fight scenes are great and there's so much variety. Jet Li shows us his abilities with Wushu hand styles as well as his staff-work, straight sword, broadsword, and 3-sectional staff. There is some wire-work, courtesy of Yuen Woo Ping, but not to much. There is quite a bit of wire-work in the fight scene on the 40 foot tower, buts that's understandable, considering the dangerous nature of the scene. There's more action in the first 40 minutes of this film than some movies entirely. The climactic fight is good with a twist and a unique ending. Watch it and see for yourself.
Jet Li may be in his forties here, but he's in better shape than most will be in their twenties. His skills are still ever so impressive, and his acting skills have also improved a little. I give this a 10/10. A Jet Li classic and must see!