HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Harpoon
Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, The
Dark Phoenix
No Mercy
Arctic
Fate of Lee Khan, The
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Ladyworld
Rocketman
Kid Who Would Be King, The
Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound
America America
Darkest Minds, The
Along Came Jones
Hummingbird Project, The
Under the Table You Must Go
Harry Birrell Presents Films of Love and War
Hanging Tree, The
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare
Itsy Bitsy
Witchmaker, The
Prey, The
If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium
Happy Death Day 2U
Full Moon High
Strange But True
Kamikaze 1989
Never Grow Old
Time of Your Life, The
Mountain Men, The
Epic
Best Before Death
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
Isabelle
Non-Stop New York
Once Upon a Time in Deadwood
Oblomov
Alita: Battle Angel
We the Animals
   
 
Newest Articles
Peak 80s Schwarzenegger: The Running Man and Red Heat
Rock On: That'll Be the Day and Stardust on Blu-ray
Growing Up in Public: 7-63 Up on Blu-ray
Learn Your Craft: Legend of the Witches and Secret Rites on Blu-ray
70s Psycho-Thrillers! And Soon the Darkness and Fright on Blu-ray
Split: Stephen King and George A. Romero's The Dark Half on Blu-ray
Disney Post-Walt: Three Gamechangers
But Doctor, I Am Pagliacci: Tony Hancock's The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man on Blu-ray
Once Upon a Time in Deadwood: Interview with Director Rene Perez
Shit-Eating Grim: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom on Blu-ray
Stallone's 80s Action Alpha and Omega: Nighthawks and Lock Up
Python Prehistory: At Last the 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set on DVD
You Could Grow to Love This Place: Local Hero on Blu-ray
Anglo-American: Joseph Losey Blu-ray Double Bill - The Criminal and The Go-Between
Marvel's Least Loved and Most Loved: Fantastic 4 vs Avengers: Endgame
Battle of the Skeksis: The Dark Crystal Now and Then
American Madness: Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss on Blu-ray
Flight of the Navigator and the 80s Futurekids
Trains and Training: The British Transport Films Collection Volume 13 on DVD
Holiday from Hell: In Bruges on Blu-ray
The Comedy Stylings of Kurt Russell: Used Cars and Captain Ron
Robot Rocked: The Avengers Cybernauts Trilogy on Blu-ray
Hammer's Bloodthirsty Bad Girls 1970: Lust for a Vampire and Countess Dracula
Hammer to Fall: Kiss Me Deadly on Blu-ray
Home of the Grave: The House That Dripped Blood and Asylum on Blu-ray
   
 
  Fearless: Director's Cut Life of a HeroBuy this film here.
Year: 2006
Director: Ronny Yu
Stars: Jet Li, Ngai Sing, Collin Chou, Shidou Nakamura, Dong Yong, Betty Sun Li, Nathan Jones, Pau Hei-Ching, Masato Harada, Qu Yun, Chen Zhi-Hui, Jacky Heung Cho, Lu Yu-Hao, Michelle Yeoh
Genre: Drama, Action, Martial Arts, Historical, Biopic
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Released internationally with forty minutes removed and sold as just another chopsocky action-fest, in its director’s cut Fearless marks a major return to form for Ronny Yu and martial arts star Jet Li. The film is a biopic of Huo Yuanjia, a turn-of-the-century wushu champion whose exploits restored national pride to the Chinese at a time when European and Japanese imperialists were eroding their country. More importantly, Huo sought to embody the true spirit of wushu, not as an outlet for violence, vengeance and hatred but as a source of pacifism and spiritual enlightenment.

It is those qualities Miss Yang (Michelle Yeoh) stresses, during wraparound sequences found only in the Chinese cut, as she endeavours to convince the International Olympic Committee to make wushu an Olympic event. To better illustrate her point, she recounts the tale of Huo Yuanjia, whom we first glimpse a hollow shell of a man aboard a barge leaving home. A flashback shows the young Huo (an impressive Lu Yu-Hao) watch as his father (Collin Chou, from The Matrix Revolutions (2003)) deliberately loses a battle to an inferior martial artist. After losing his own fight against the rival’s son, Huo swears never to be beaten again and trains using a kung fu manual stolen from his disapproving dad.

Years later, the adult Huo (Jet Li) has an adoring daughter (Ngai Sing) and a string of bone-crunching victories to his name. But his growing arrogance and ruthless need to be number one lose him the respect of his best friend Nong Jingsun (Dong Yong). When Huo brutally slays his rival Master Chin (Chen Zhi-Hui), the dead man’s supporters murder his beloved mother (Pau Hei-Ching) and child. At this point, your average kung fu movie would have Huo take revenge. Here he takes up the sword, only for the guilty party to immediately confess all and commit suicide, leaving Chin’s wife and daughter cowering before the shell-shocked Huo. With nothing left of his life, Huo flees his hometown to live life as a bedraggled vagabond. Hallucinating that he sees his mother and daughter beckoning from a nearby river, he attempts suicide, but is rescued and nursed back to health by blind village girl Moon (Betty Sun Li) and her wise grandmother (Qu Yun). Living the next few years amidst their peaceful farming community, Huo rediscovers the gentle altruistic philosophy at the heart of wushu.

He returns to Tianjian in 1909, where foreign powers now rule the roost and the downtrodden Chinese are abused as “the sick men of Asia”, a phrase familiar to Fist of Fury (1972) fans. Making peace with Nong Jingsun and Chin’s family, Huo Yuanjia establishes a wushu sports team, proving that competing heroically is a nobler endeavour than fighting to the death. When foreign powers arrange a one-against-four martial arts bout to test his mettle, Huo rises to the challenge, but shifty Japanese statesman Mr. Mita (Masato Harada, better known as the director of such films as Gunhed (1989)) has other ideas.

This film’s whole reason for being is to chart the spiritual journey that led Huo Yuanjia to steer martial arts away from the vicious cycle of vengeance and hatred towards the betterment of body, mind and soul. Which makes it especially galling that the international version is missing so many scenes that illustrate this point, such as when Huo takes a redemptive beating on behalf of a young boy or when he saves one opponent’s life in the ring. Put simply, if you want to take something more substantial away from this film other than the spectacle of Jet Li hitting people, then track down the Director’s Cut on region 3 DVD.

Although lacking the abstract flourishes of his earlier classics, Ronny Yu’s storytelling has a classical elegance. Time and again it stresses the idea that revenge is an empty pursuit and to challenge yourself, to pit your skill against a worthy opponent can be spiritually uplifting, life-changing experience. Like Jet Li’s earlier Fist of Legend (1995), this shuns xenophobia to show there is valour (or duplicity) on both sides, as with Tanaka (Shidou Nakamura) the philosophically-inclined karate fighter who becomes Huo’s final opponent. Yuen Woo Ping - who directed his own Huo Yuanjia biopic, Legend of a Fighter (1982) - delivers some wire-fu and CG assisted fight choreography that annoyed curmudgeonly kung fu purists, but demonstrate a range of fighting styles familiar from classic martial arts films in a ways that are exciting, visceral and inventive.

Aside from Betty Sun Li’s gentle and affecting turn, performances are pitched broad but remain engaging. Jet Li in particular gets a chance to display a greater range beyond his usual straight-laced stoicism, going from cocky, self-centred clown, to sagely martial arts philosopher. A big-budget epic, this boasts extravagant sets and locations and Ronny Yu’s fluid camerawork has a poetry missing from his movies for far too long. Note the simple scene where Moon washes Huo’s hair, which imparts a life lesson about cleansing, purity and starting life anew.

As a biopic, this omit a few facts such as that Huo sired other children beyond the little daughter mentioned here, and his wife is barely acknowledged at all. However, the drama is often profound and insightful with a finale that does bring a tear your eye.

Click here for the trailer

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 2555 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Ronny Yu  (1950 - )

Hong Kong-born director of action and fantasy. Began directing in the early 80s, and made films such as the historical actioner Postman Strikes Back (with Chow Yun-Fat), Chase Ghost Seven Powers and the heroic bloodshed flick China White. The two Bride with White Hair films – both released in 1993 – were hugely popular fantasy adventures, which helped Yu secure his first American film, the kids film Warriors of Virtue. Yu then helmed Bride of Chucky, the fourth and best Child's Play movie, the Brit action film The 51st State and the horror face-off Freddy Vs Jason. He later returned to Asia to helm the likes of Saving General Yang.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star do you think makes the best coffee?
Emma Stone
Anna Kendrick
Michelle Rodriguez
Sir Patrick Stewart
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Paul Smith
Andrew Pragasam
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
Paul Shrimpton
  Desbris M
   

 

Last Updated: