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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2006!
Cast: Jet Li, Shido Nakamura, Betty Sun, Yong Dong, Collin Chou
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
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Jet Li is probably second only to Jackie Chan as the world’s biggest name in martial arts movies. With this influence and fame Jet Li has clearly used his clout to invest and promote Chinese cinema as well as the wealth of historical stories they have in their past. Having made a name for himself in huge western success’ like ‘Romeo Must Die’ and ‘Lethal Weapon 4’ recently his releases seem to have harked back to his eastern roots, the sublime ‘Hero’ being the high watermark of his illustrious career. Fearless may not have the visual poetry or subtle excellence in its breathtaking storytelling, but it is a story of worth and differently a more crowd pleasing, enjoyable film all round.
It is the story of Huo Yuanjia, the son of a great fighter, who after a life of hardships and spiritual growth goes on to become one of the most revered martial artists in chine, if not the world. The film begins with a prologue as Huo fights at a confederation tournament where he fights the western federations four best fighters to see who is the greatest of them all. After disposing of three with ease the Japanese fighter steps up and suddenly we transport back to Huo’s childhood.
His lifelong, best friend, Nong Jinsun, tries to tell him that the disciples who follow him, drawn by his fame as a fighter are shallow and not truly loyal to him. Huo is expectedly conceited about the whole affair and continues on blindly. It is only after a dispute amongst another legendary fighter, Master Chin fashioned by the fighters’ godson, that Huo is made to stop and take stock of himself. The fight that ensues takes a lot out of him physically, but other events and acts of revenge take it out of him emotionally as well. He leaves the town he is from and spends time in the country side in the care of a young blind girl, Moon and her grandmother. Who teach him about the respect of nature. Once his rehabilitation is complete he returns a changed man.
The town he left has also changed, western colonisation is rife and in trying to further cement his reputation as the greatest fighter, as well as the reputation of his homeland against the cocky westerners that claim eastern fighters to be weak. The tournament at the start of the film is undertaken after Huo has established a famous fighting school.
While this all sounds very formulaic, the way it is styled is at time very tongue in cheek. It never tries to be overly serious in its manner and uses its trump card of martial arts to full effect. The choreography is sublime, the action relentless, and that’s what it’s there for really. Anyone expecting more depth I’m sure can find it in other martial arts movies, but for sheer unadulterated enjoyment, escapism then you can do a lot worse.
Review by Stefan Leverton 26/02/10