Monday, March 31, 2008

Movie Review: Jet Li's Fearless

This is a typical Jet Li period piece with a fairly typical period plot. Li plays another legendary Chinese historical figure, Huo Yuanjia. His story: suffering a humiliation as a child, Huo vows to never be defeated again. He of course grows up to be the best fighter in town and gets cocky, leading to the loss of his family. He wanders into the countryside to learn humility and inner peace. I guess the humility part didn't really take, though, because when he returns to his home, he discovers that foreign powers are taking over culturally and economically, and he decides that he is the proper one to lead the Chinese people down the path of national pride. No points for guessing if he succeeds.

So, the story is no big surprise, certainly one that shows up constantly in martial arts films. What about the action scenes? Well, most of the fight scenes here are well-done, and showed a surprising amount of speed and viciousness. There were times where the action was slowed down to show off a bit of the wirework that seems to be present in every Jet Li film I see, but most of the time the action was allowed to run. This isn't the martial-arts-as-ballet (as in Hero, for example). The various sword fights were particularly nice, fast-moving and hard-hitting.

Yeah, I don't watch these films for the acting, but I did actually notice Li's performance here. During his early rise, Huo is portrayed as a kind of a party guy, generally enjoying being the biggest badass around. Li usually plays reserved, stoic or angry characters (and indeed, he reverts back to that persona by the end of this film), so seeing him laughing and passing around the drinks was kind of a nice change of pace (the kind of thing Jackie Chan did in many of his early films).

I'll give this one three stars, just because it didn't really go too far above the line, but this was a good, solid enjoyable film.

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