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Fearless (2006)

DVD Cover (Rogue Pictures)
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6.5
 / 10
7 votes
Genres:
Action, Martial Arts, Period Film
Director:
Ronny Yu Ronny Yu
Starring:
Shidō Nakamura Shidō Nakamura
Betty Sun Betty Sun
Yong Dong Yong Dong
Hee Ching Paw Hee Ching Paw
Jet Li Jet Li
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Review by 385
Added: September 04, 2007
Martial artist Huo Yuanjia (1867 - 1910) is a national hero in China. At the turn of the century, the Chinese culture was getting swept away by Western influence and consequently, its people were usually overlooked. He used his Wushu style of fighting in numerous, highly publicized fights against foreign opponents, bringing the Chinese some much needed national pride. This movie, known in China as Huo Yuanjia, is obviously based on the Chinese hero but takes a lot of 'artistic liberty' with the facts.

We open with Yuanjia about to compete in a four-on-one gauntlet-style competition. He wins the first three rounds easily, honorably bowing to each defeated opponent. As his fourth and final opponent walks on stage, Yuanjia looks a tad uneasy and we flashback to look at the events leading up to this competition. In fact, we cut all the way back to his childhood days of spying on his father's Wushu class, yearning to learn the art himself. His father, despite being a master himself, refuses to teach his son, instead instructing him to improve his education. Huo will have none of it, and teaches himself to fight. He's quite a good self-educator as well, as we now cut forward to a grown Yuanjia, who is the best fighter in Tianjin. He wins every fight without breaking a sweat, even against multiple opponents. The constant victories have swelled his ego quite a bit, and he walks around the city thinking of himself a celebrity. He throws huge parties at the local restaurant, running up the bill way beyond what he can manage, completely blind to his "friends" only being there for the free wine. His only true rival is another fighter named Master Chin, who has apparently attacked and injured one of Huo's students. Naturally, this throws him into a fit of rage and he attacks the man at his birthday party, the resulting battle ending with grief and death to the families on both sides. Crushed by guilt and loss, Yuanjia flees Tianjin looking for a release to his pain. He finds it, as one often does, in the most unlikely of places. He has wandered into a small, rundown village where he is taken in by a blind woman and her grandmother. Here, he learns many lessons of kindness, humility and enjoying the simpler gifts in life, such as a refreshing breeze.

I kind of went into this expecting a mindless action movie with only a threadbare plot to string the fights along. What I got was so much more. Sure, that's basically what the first section amounted to. Yuanjia struts around the city, frequently taking to the Lei tai to prove himself and keep his ego inflated. However, that all changes after he leaves Tianjin. I admit, his time spent in the village is a bit slow, especially after the fight-after-fight pace the movie had been using, but the payoff in the third section is well worth it. Watching the new Huo Yuanjia is like the aforementioned breeze. He has gone from a shallow man of ego to an introspective man of honor. And honor is the key word from here on out. Watching the final battle, the mutual respect these men had for each other is truly a sight to see. Huge props to Jet Li for pulling off this transition.

For the record, I hate the wire-style "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" martial arts movies. Fortunately, this one uses that in just the right proportions. That is, barely at all. Sure, it's got our hero leaping off his back, three feet straight up at times, but it's peppered here and there throughout the movie, so the few times they do use the technique it makes you go "yeah man, that was pretty cool." So, thank you to director Ronny Yu for not being George Lucas.

So, while we have a movie that's "based on a true story," I wouldn't recommend using it to study for any history exams. In fact, it's so far removed from reality that the families of the real Huo Yuanjia wanted Jet Li and the studio to release a public apology. But historical inaccuracy aside, it's still a pretty damn good movie on its own. 8/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 09/04/2007, 10:20 AM
Boy, I really just hate Jet Li. The only film of his I have enjoyed was "Unleashed" and that's due to Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins. I saw this one at the dollar theatre when it came out, just like I do every Jason Statham movie -- just so I can make fun of it. However, this was not one of the worst I have seen -- just another lame martial arts film. But, it could have been worse. 4/10.
385 #2: 385 - added 09/04/2007, 12:28 PM
*snickers* Li and Statham are two of my favorites.
bluemeanie #3: bluemeanie - added 09/04/2007, 12:39 PM
Then I bet you've been all over "War".
385 #4: 385 - added 09/04/2007, 01:08 PM
I did like that one, but the shaky-camera, quick-angle-change bullshit during the action hurt it a lot.
Ashley #5: Ashley - added 09/17/2007, 06:02 PM
I've actually seen this movie, believe it or not. I'm not a big fan of many of Jet Li's movies either.. but I'm not the biggest martial arts fan in the world. It was a decent movie, just too much violence for my liking.
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