3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2006
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 103 minutes
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“Jet Li’s Fearless,” or “Huo Yuan Jia” as it’s known in Hong Kong, stars the world renowned martial arts star Jet Li, in what he calls his final martial arts epic. Li, a man who has managed to regain his credibility with US film critics with wonderful films like “Hero” and “Danny the Dog,” once again proves himself with “Fearless.”

Jia is a man who has always felt as if he was never good enough; especially since his father wouldn’t teach him Wu Shu as a boy due to his asthma. When he became a man he vowed to become the number one fighter in Tientsin. “Fearless” is the tale of a man who becomes his own worst enemy. He’s so anxious to prove himself to others, that he loses sight of his priorities, losing both his family, and his friends. Li’s last martial arts epic, sadly, is not a complete win.

And this is due mainly to the problem that the plot, while fascinating, is also paper thin to the point that in the first half, “Fearless” feels like nothing more than a montage of fight sequences with an ancient setting. Characterization is scarce, and the lead up to the actual plot drags at a slug’s pace. For most this will seem irrelevant since this is a Jet Li film, but when you can contrast this to Li’s other epic, you sense what the film is lacking.

That fact that is saved, however, by many other redeeming traits that makes “Fearless” a win, most of all with the utterly amazing choreography by none other than Woo-ping Yuen, whose fight sequences are flawless and rapid fire. “Fearless” has some of the best choreography I’ve seen in years, and Li handles the task with his usual finesse. When the film actually decides to settle down, it’s a sweet tale of a man regaining his humanity, and learning about the better things in life.

Li’s Jia is similar to Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” in “Unforgiven” in which he’s seen the ugly side of humanity, and wishes to finish his last fight before ending it. As always, Li proves he’s just as good an actor as he is a master of martial arts, giving his depiction as Jia both an ugly competitive spirit, and a humanity that helps us sympathize even when he’s at his worst in character. Yu gives wonderful direction, along with brisk cinematography, and masterful editing that make the action and drama engrossing and eye catching.

The theme behind “Fearless” is utterly simplistic, but universal: violence begets violence. It’s a never ending cycle that becomes more and more vicious, until someone decides to stop it. It’s a worthy final installment.

Posted on October 14, 2006 in Reviews by

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