Huo Yuanjia was a real-life legendary Chinese martial artist, and although it's near impossible to separate the man from the legends that have spawned, it would be fair to say that Jet Li's Fearless is most definitely not a documentary about his life. Jet Li plays Huo Yuanjia (obviously) in this mostly fictionalized take on the life of Huo Yuanjia, and... well, he does a pretty damn good job of it. I'm no stranger to Jet Li films, and I'd have to say he gave one of his most impressive acting performances in this feature. He claims that this will be his last martial arts flick, and even though I saw more range than in any of his others productions, I'm not so sure about him giving up the action and going all drama, or even comedy on us.
Anyways, on to the story. We start out watching Huo about to participate in some tournament where he will face four different challengers, each from a different country. The first three fights are kick-ass, with a hand-to-hand fight, a sword fight, and a spear fight. Both the choreography and speed here is simply amazing, and totally puts the Star Wars prequels to shame. Then we come to the fourth fight. As they introduce Huo's challenger, a flashback fade starts, and we are taken to a time when Huo was just a little boy. Both my wife and I saw this coming, but what we didn't see coming was the fact that we wouldn't get back to the fourth match until the end of the movie. We though this flashback would just give a little history between the two fighters and then jump back into the tournament. But nope, after about 30 more minutes we began to realize that the flashback actually was the meat of the movie.
Okay, so Huo's father taught some sweet martial arts, but wouldn't allow poor little Timmy – I mean Huo – learn it. Nope, Mr. Meany-pants made Huo do that fancy book-learnin'. But Huo's no chump, and he figured ways to sneak peeks when his daddy was training students, and then got his best bud to do his school work while he practiced them sweet moves. Then one day he witnessed his poppy fight a duel... and lose because he held back his final attack. So the waterworks started, some boys teased him, he challenged them to a fight in return... and in a surprise twist, he got is ass whupped! From that day on he vowed to never let anyone beat him again. Hm, does that really work? I vow to never mistpel a ward agian! Damn, guess not.
Alrighty, time to fast-forward. Huo married and had a kid, while both his wife and daddy ended up 6 feet under. Huo has not only become an awesome fighter, but he has also become awesomely arrogant. I won't go into all the details here, I'll just say that he picks a fight that he shouldn't have picked, and surprises of all surprises... he wins! Didn't see that comin', did ya? He not only wins, but he does a friggin' finishing move, sending dude to his grave. Now, dude's son is obviously pissed, so he goes out for some revenge of his own... but he's not a moron; he knows he can't physically beat Huo. He does, however, know how to beat him down mentally... and on that, I shall say no more!
Huo breaks down and winds up floating himself down a river where he is found by a nice family consisting of a mom and her hot sexy blind daughter. They nurse him back to health, and he hangs out there for a few years, then decides it's time to return home to pay his respect to his parents. While back, he makes nice with all the people he had hurt, and also accepts fighting challenges to help restore respect for China. And this is where the tournament comes in... you know, the one where we started the movie. Yeah, so we're back there, and that means the movie is almost over, so I'll just leave it at that.
This wasn't a straight marital-arts/action flick, it definitely had the element of drama to it, but the martial arts scenes were still pretty impressive for the most part. I'm really glad they didn't use a ton of wire work, though they did use some, and that was really off-putting. Stunts with obvious wi rework always make the scene seem so fake, so I was definitely disappointed to see them used here. At least I wasn't able to notice any obvious CG stunts, so that's a plus. All-in-all, I enjoyed watching it, but there wasn't really anything that blew me away where I'd have a strong desire to see it again.
I didn't catch this in the theater, so I'm really looking forward to getting the DVD. When I do, I'll be sure to let you all know exactly what I think, but until then you'll have to be satisfied with the following generic press release... and this freaky Create Your Own Highlight Reel website:
Universal Studios Home Entertainment Press Release
The world's foremost martial arts superstar steps into the role of the most famous fighter in Chinese history when Jet Li's Fearless comes to DVD and HD DVD/ DVD combo format on December 19, 2006 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Jet Li, the acclaimed star of the films Unleashed and Hero, marks his farewell to the martial arts genre in Jet Li's Fearless, an epic masterpiece that powerfully combines unparalleled fight sequences and masterful storytelling. The film is inspired by the larger-than-life accomplishments of the martial arts icon and founder of the Jingwu Sports Federation, Huo Yuanjia. With explosive fights scenes by legendary action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping (The Matrix, Kill Bill), the new Unrated Edition of Jet Li's Fearless contains some of the most hard-hitting hand-to-hand combat ever captured on film. A can't-miss experience for dedicated action fans, the DVD is the only place the film is available with English dubbing as well as in the original Chinese with English subtitles.
A high-powered, action-packed adventure from producer Bill Kong (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero) and director Ronny Yu (Freddy vs. Jason, The Bride with White Hair) Jet Li's Fearless is based on the heroic real-life saga of fighter and national hero Huo Yuanjia. Set in China at the turn of the last century, Huo's transformation from an arrogant and ruthless young fighter to a wise and thoughtful master defined the true spirit of martial arts and inspired his nation. Fans of extreme action and spectacular martial arts sequences will delight in the exclusive extras and bonuses packed into the DVD. The DVD is priced at $29.98 and the HD DVD/ DVD combo format is priced at $39.98. Preorder close is November 14, 2006.
Jet Li's Fearless Soars to Critical acclaim
Critics across America praised the extraordinary and visually stunning combination of acting and fight choreography that make Jet Li's Fearless one of the greatest martial arts epics ever. The film is �visually awesome,� and �a defining film for the martial arts star,� according to Bruce Westbrook of The Houston Chronicle. Michael Wilmington of The Chicago Tribune says Jet Li's Fearless is �thrill-packed action! The movie keeps roaring right along!� William Arnold of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer declares the film is �exhilarating!� and raves, �Jet Li keeps us riveted!�
Inspired by the story of a real-life hero, Jet Li's Fearless is a thrilling masterpiece from action superstar Jet Li. When an ill-advised fight destroys the reputation of a renowned martial arts champion (Li) and his family, his difficult path to redemption will bring him face-to-face with the most ferocious fighters in the world. Orchestrated by Yuen Wo Ping, the legendary choreographer of The Matrix and Kill Bill, this sensational, riveting epic is being described as �astounding� and �visually stunning with brilliantly executed fight sequences� (Pete Hammond, Maxim).
For more information please visit: <www.jetlisfearless.com>
Cast & Filmmakers
Director: Ronny Yu
Written By: Chris Chow, Christine To
Produced By: Bill Kong, Jet Li, Ronny Yu, Yang Buting
Director of Photography: Poon Hang Sang
Film Editors: Virginia Katz, Richard Learoyd
Costume Designer: Thomas Chong
Music By: Shigeru Umebayashi
Cast: Jet Li, Nakamura Shidou, Sun Li, Dong Yong, Nathan Jones
Jet Li's Fearless is availabe starting December 19, 2006, released by Universal Home Video.