Thursday, January 26, 2006
Ok, I am not exactly a Jet Li fan. In fact I didn't watch a single of his American made movies. I have been burnt too often by those crappy American made Jackie Chan movies (Tuxedo anybody?) that when I heard that Jet Li is coming out with a Chinese produced martial arts movie, I was keeping my fingers crossed. Especially after the horrors that were "The Promise" and "The Myth", I have become pretty wary of these recent Chinese production out to "please the global audience". Today, my prayers have been answered, and my expectations totally met above and beyond. The answer I found in "Fearless". In fact, I haven't been so excited about a Chinese movie since the first "Infernal Affairs" and "Hero".
The story is very straightforward - loosely based on the life of Huo Yuan Jia, a true historical figure in Chinese Martial Arts history to have started a martial arts school that now has more than 50 branches around the world. This is a tale of a man whose arrogance has caused the death of his loved ones, and how through losing everything, does he realize what are the things that really matter in life, other than power and fame. But what I am most impressed with this movie was the structure of the way the story is told. As opposed to telling the story in chronological manner, the director moved the last scene of the movie to the front, thus establishing the great figure that is Huo Yuanjia. Many films have done this before, but this one is done so that it enhances the tale, and not just for "coolness" sake. In what way does it enhance the story? If the story starts out with Huo Yuanjia as an arrogant young man, it will reduce the impact by which the audience will feel when he goes through the changes that he did. But the fact that he was first established as a Chinese Hero, then revealed that he was an arrogant young lad, it makes the hero's journey even more compelling for the audience to follow. Also, if Huo Yuanjia was first show to be an arrogant lad that changes into a hero, it will make the character too one-sided or less compelling as we do not feel how great he truly is. By starting and ending the movie with him as an hero, will make us understand that we should not just focus on a person's bad past to judge his acheivements.
Many films has dabbled with the era when China was overrun with the caucasians and Japanese trying to snatch a piece of the land. This one though, does it nicely with minimum stereotyping of the foreigners and is the least cheesy in handling those characters. I personally think this will be one of the key success of this film when it is shown overseas.
Ok, other than the excellent structure for this film, the acting were great. And the cinematography and editing were very impressive too. If this truly is Jet Li's last film, I would say that he has exited with a BANG! This movie will go down in history as one of the classics of Chinese kungfu movies, just like Hero, Police Story, Shaolin Temple, Drunken Master, Fist of Fury etc. It is that good. Heck, I'll placed it as one of the best and possibly one of the most influential Chinese movie ever made along side the likes of Infernal Affairs and ChungKing Express.
And how could I not talk about the fighting in this great kungfu flick? There are some very impressively choreographed fighting sequences by Yuen Wo Ping. Damn it is hard to say which is the best. I'd say everything here were done with minimum wire works and their goal is to achieve a realistic look. Very well done.
So I guess I have said enough good things about this film. I am planning to watch it again. :) As for the Jay chou's music for this film, let's just say that it was good that it wasn't used in any part of the film with the exception of the closing credits. That pop song just doesn't do justice to this great movie.
Apparently this will not be his last movie - but his last "martial arts" movie. Thanks for the tip from a reader.