06 October 2006

Jet Li's Fearless (Beijing Film Studios; Rogue Pictures, 2006)

Jet Li's Fearless (a.k.a. Huo Yuan Jia) is purportedly Jet Li's last martial arts film, though he will continue making American action films. Fearless is loosely based on legendary fighter Huo Yuan Jia, who fought for Chinese pride at a time when Western influence was pervasive. He also had to grow through tragedy before understanding the true meaning of wushu. Jet Li has been quoted many times on the press tour for this film reminding reporters that Wushu actually translates as the art of not fighting or the art of stopping war -- not exactly the typical Western view of martial arts.

Part of Jet Li's reasoning behind making the film was to provide an alternative to the violent revenge films that make up so much of the genre. Instead, Fearless is somehow both action-packed and also a meditation on the significance of wushu. And, I might add, it's a tear jerker, too.

Fearless starts at the climax then shoots back thirty years and moves forward to rejoin the great battle that made Huo Yuan Jia a hero to the Chinese. The fight scenes are beautifully choreographed, elaborate and tense -- everything you could wish for in a martial arts epic. The lessons in the film are obvious, but there's enough action to temper the saccharine.


tags: film, review, Fearless, Huo Yuan Jia