Two friends, ex Shaolin monks, part ways as they brush with the ongoing rebellion against the government. The ambitious one rises up to be a powerful military commander, while his betrayed friend resorts to learn the calm ways of Tai Chi.
Junbao (Jet Li) is a monk who grows up in a Shaolin temple with his friend Tienbao. Their friendly competitions to see who is stronger frequently gets them into trouble. At a competition for promotion to a higher place in Shaolin, Tienbao almost kills another student for cheating and using a concealed weapon. After a disagreement with a master, who refuses to believe Tienbao, a fight erupts which results in Junbao and Tienbao being expelled from the temple. Having lived in a temple their entire lives, they have trouble adapting to the outside world and eventually gets mixed up with local rebels who frequently steal from a corrupt governor and give the proceeds back to the poor. Tienbao, who was always very ambitious and competitive, gets tired and disillusioned by their new lifestyle, accepts an offer by the governor to join his army. The two childhood friends reluctantly decide to go their separate ways. Seeing an opportunity to secure a promotion in the army, Tienbao sets a trap for...Written by
The fights are mostly great fun but the story and characters are a bit of a problem and not as well developed as they needed to be
As children, Junbao and Chin Bo were put together in the monastery to help each other learn. Over they years they became great friends and great fighters to the point where Chin Bo is entered into an internal tournament to see who from all the students will progress. During the fight Chin Bo's opponent cheats, enraging Bo and causing him to beat his opponent with a savagery that is unbefitting a monk. Kicking out for this, Chin Bo and Junbao find themselves out on the street to fend for themselves. They meet a young woman, Siu Lin, and start to help her out but, after thinking about the future, the two friends go their separate ways with Chin Bo becoming a soldier and Junbao falling in with Siu Lin and a group of rebels.
With Hero currently being touted all over the place as the greatest thing ever, I thought I'd just avoid the multiplex hype and view some older Jet Li films, one of which was Twin Warriors, as it is known in the UK. The film starts with an OK plot but then it starts to fall down a bit as the story widens to include entire armies and so on. The reason it falters as it goes is due to the lack of character in the script; the film is about the lead two but, other than both can fight, one is nice, the other a bit rough, we are not given much to get into and I never really was drawn into the passion, the loss and the conflict in their relationship. The film uses some of the humour that made Fong Sai-Yuk (The Legend) so very enjoyable, but it uses it sparingly at the start and then not at all later on. As a story it is neither as involving nor as funny as it could have been and needed to be to work better for me.
Of course this is a problem that can be understood when you consider that the director is better known for his fight choreography than anything else. As such he does well to produce some exciting fights that demonstrate how good wire work can be only once or twice does he hit a bad note (Junbao's bouncing head butt was more silly than exciting). None of the fights really stand out as being one of the greats, they are often too contrived and and are (surprisingly) rather flatly filmed at times; but they are still enjoyable and are certainly a lot more fun than the stuff that Jet Li has been reduced to in his American films in the past few years. Li shows again here why he became a global star he makes the wirework look natural and he has great charisma combined with a winning smile and the ability to convey more complex emotions. Yeoh was a big draw for me but I didn't feel she was used very well; action-wise she did well but she didn't have a great character and gradually slips into the shadows when the film comes back to focus on the battle between Li and Shi-hou. Shi-hou is OK but he is so simple an angry man at heart; this could have been a complex character but Shi-lou makes him too easy to dislike and there is no requirement for us to think about him or feel anything at all. Support is good with the most memorable stuff coming from the rebel comic relief but the dubbing leaves a little to be desired. I'm not a snob I don't need to see the film in the original language but often it helps with the performances. Sometimes dubbing is OK with this but here I didn't think some of it was very good and they messed with the characters by the manner of their delivery the Emperor was the worst, he was done by some guy giving a very bad Peter Lorre impression.
Overall this is an enjoyable film from a martial arts point of view but it really isn't that great. The fights are mostly well done without any of them really being amazing but the story and characters are all done far too simply to really engage and excite. The story had potential to be emotional and driving but without the characters it didn't work so well if it had I would have been more involved making the action scenes a lot more exciting and dramatic.
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