ÀN¤¸¥̉ (2006)
Fearless


Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011


Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 06/24/2007

Telling the story of real-life prizefighter Hou YuanJia, the first half predominantly concerns itself with Hou’s rise to the top in the early 20th century despite a childhood plagued with asthma and a father (an excellent Ngai Sing) who wants to keep his son away from the art. His father is a master of Wu Shu and shows his craft at local duels, which prove to be brutal affairs where the combatants are required to sign “death waivers” to absolve the organisers of blame in case anything goes wrong. It is into this environment that Hou finds himself drawn, and he eventually follows in his father’s footsteps to become the “Hero of Tianjin”.

The central character is quite weighty for an action movie, and Jet Li pulls it off well. Hou turns into an arrogant drunken thug after his success and then has to deal with a cripplingly tragic event in his life. The latter half of the film deals with Hou’s inevitable rehabilitation and his quest for redemption, rather than revenge, armed with his newborn humility. Throughout, Li plays it without sinking into melodramatics, much to his credit.

The duels and challenges are shot in typical Jet Li style, with lots of wirework and with a leaning towards the more fantastic. Thankfully, there is not an over-reliance on CGI in the actual fighting sections of the film, which is what I was most concerned about. Actually, sometimes Fearless has an almost “dated” feel to it – and I mean that in a largely complimentary way. I do, however, feel that a film based on a real-life hero should have perhaps been approached in a more realistic way, but that’s a minor gripe. Besides, you could, at a push, say the same about Once Upon a Time in China. I will admit, though, that the fight scenes did not always excite me, or elicit any kind of emotional response from me at times. This happens to me fairly regularly with films choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping for some reason, and I’m not really able to identify why. And there’s plenty of his films I like, too.

Of course, this story has been told before and a lot of people will know how it’s all going to end up, but that’s not the point. And while I didn’t enjoy Fearless as much as practically everyone else who’s seen it, I can still see that it’s a well thought out film and probably worthy of most of the praise heaped upon it.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 02/15/2007
Summary: the director's cut

now, i enjoyed 'fearless' a lot, but it did feel hurried. thankfully, ronny yu's director's cut has now been made available on dvd.

the film tells the story of huo yuanjia (jet li), a famous, highly influential and supremely talented martial artist. huo was the son of a martial arts master (ngai sing), who secretly learned his family's style of wu shu and grew up to be a pretty detestable young man. at his worst, huo was a heavy drinker, concerned only with the adulation of his students and consumed by the prospect of being the number one fighter in tianjin. realising this prospect only brings huo, and his family, pain and suffering.

huo flees tianjin, finding himself at his lowest ebb and without the will to live; he is lost and at death's door, until he is taken in by a family in a small rural community. it is during the following years that hou reinvents himself, developing a philosophy based around the enrichment of mind, body and soul, through the practice of martial arts.

when huo returns to tianjin, circa 1909, he finds china has been flooded with foreign colonialists from the likes of england, france, america, belgium, japan and spain. china is labelled as "the sick man of east asia" and national untiy and pride is at an all time low. huo now sees it as his duty to promote his martial arts philosophy (through the founding of the jingwu sports federation) and fight to bring a sense of national pride and identity back to the chinese people.

as i've said before, 'fearless' marks a triumphant return to china for ronny yu, yuen woo ping and jet li; all of whom have had time away from hong kong and, on the whole, haven't been producing work to the degree that they're capable of doing.

it was already a well made biopic; i'm not sure how accurate it is but, the engaging narrative and li's outstanding central performance, made it very watchable. my only criticism was that it did feel rushed but, thankfully, now we can watch the film as it was intended thanks to this release. the additional thirty-six minutes adds a more natural pace to film, allowing for a more convincing character development and a greater depth to proceedings. the only part that i felt was unneccessary was the present day introduction, featuring michelle yeoh's presentation on wu shu, to the international olympic commitee. it's a little clunky, but this is only a minor criticism.

praise should be heaped on to jet li for his performance in 'fearless', who seems to be making every effort within the role. not suprising as he also announced that this, the story of the man who founded the foundation where he trained, would be his last period, wu shu film. physically, li's performance is amazing, which is to be expected, even if he is fourty-two. it is, however, li's range of performance throughout the dramatic highs and lows of huo's life; without a doubt, a career best from mr li.

combined with yuen woo ping choreographic flair, his performances in the various fighting sequences are also incredible, ranking alongside some of his best work. from the 'fong sai yuk'-esque fight a top a scaffold, a showdown against multiple challengers, the restaurant fight against his rival, master chin (chen zhi-hui), the re-inserted sequence with the thai fighter, somluck kamsing, a great confrontation with nathan jones and the final showdown, where huo takes on an english boxer (jean-claude leuyer), a belgian lance expert (brandon rhea), a spanish swordsman (anthony de longis) and a japanese fighter (nakamura shidou) - all outstanding.

this is a very good watch indeed and a suitable way for li to bow out of the wu shu films in fine style.

great stuff...


Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 02/06/2007
Summary: a masterful work.

Everything old is new again. It is always a good thing when a major Hong Kong co-production gets a worldwide theatrical release. Fearless is a masterful work of art, a perfect movie for these dire times. This film should be mandatory viewing for our world leaders. The philosophical message of peace is so strong that maybe it could be a useful influence.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 01/25/2007
Summary: A Classic

I think the fact that there are eleven reviews here (now twelve) in which no one gave a rating of less than 8 says it all. The diverse group that posts reviews here has never, to my recollection, been so much in agreement over a film.

This is Jet Li's masterpiece. I saw it in the week in which Peyton Manning finally made it to the Superbowl, and it strikes me as being the same for Jet Li as the Pats/Colts game was for Manning: a perfect example of the outstanding performance he can give; one that will silence his critics and satisfy his fans. And just as Manning didn't do it by himself, Jet Li is surrounded by outstanding efforts from his teammates, especially Yuen Wo-Ping.

Jet Li retired from making Wu Shu films after this one, and who can argue with the decision. This is his definitive statement of what Wu Shu is; there's no point in or need for another. And I don't think all the forces could come together again as well as they did in this one. Not that it's perfect, but the overall effect is extremely satisfying.

Great story; great fighting; great performance by Jet Li.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 10/22/2006

“Fearless” is an extraordinarily well made movie that works on several levels. If it is Jet Li’s last martial arts epic he has covered himself in glory with it. The plot is straightforward—it follows the rise, fall, rise and ultimate near transfiguration of Huo Yuanjia. It looks and sounds great—composer Umebayashi Shigeru and set designer Jeff Mak both did sterling jobs. The score—especially the drumming and the synthesizer-augmented low strings—is memorable but wasn’t intrusive. You noticed it when it was part of the action on the screen, for example when the drummers at the last fight were shown but it was simply part of the overall experience otherwise. The design and cinematography of the interlude in the Shangri-la type rural commune was stunning and almost (but not quite) too perfect. Jet Li did a credible job as Huo Yuanjia and he was surrounded by terrific actors most of whom inhabited their parts most ably. The themes explored include the possibility of redemption for even the most heinous transgressions, the necessity for unity of an oppressed people in the face of the oppressors and the ability of one person to rise above the seeming inexorable march of events and to change history.

It opens with Huo Yuanjia in the fight of his life, pitted against warriors from four of the powers occupying China. The fight has been set up by the Foreign Chamber of Commerce to show the Chinese that no one, not even their most skilled and diligent fighter, can overcome their combined might. Huo makes quick work of the first three, from England, Belgium and France. Each of the western champions is an expert in one discipline of battle and each of them has the same essential approach, a hyper-aggressive attack at all times style. The Englishman is pre-Marquis of Queensbury bare knuckles boxer who doesn’t land a punch before he is propelled from the fighting surface. The Belgian, apparently a mounted lancer (he fights in the dress uniform of a cavalryman) gives up quickly when he breaks his lance over his knee in frustration, allowing Huo to pin him with his now longer weapon. The Frenchman uses a sword that looks to be a combination of a saber and a cutlass which can only be used in lunging, slashing movements. Since Huo is a master of all weapons he easily disposes of him, although with a bit more effort than the first two.

That the European powers are feckless and coarse is shown both by the ease with which their fighters are defeated and also by the way their proconsuls are influenced by Mr. Mito, the Japanese leader. The white guys know only one way of dealing with upstarts from the colonies, to smash them with a mailed fist. The Japanese, while willing to use brutal force, are also smart enough to make sure the enemy has been weakened enough to be defeated. The westerners might as well be cardboard cutouts labeled “Imperialist” while the Japanese duo of Mito and Anno Tanaka, masterfully played by Nakamura Shiduo, show the extremes of dishonesty on one hand and nobility on the other.

There are many perfect or almost perfect moments in “Fearless”. One is during the battle between Yuanjia's father and the representative of the main competing martial arts style. When Yuanjia's father sees him in the audience he holds back on what might have been a killing blow, allowing his opponent to knock him from the ring and win the match. The “death waiver” had already been signed, an image that occurs several more times and is a small but key part of the transition of Huo from local tough guy to revered national leader. Another is during the idyllic interlude in the countryside when, to show how the people there are connected to nature, everyone stops what he is doing when the wind comes up to simply enjoy the breeze across his face.

Hou’s counterpart is Nong Jinsun, essentially Lincoln Kirsten to Huo’s George Ballanchine, supplying the capital and managerial expertise so that the (martial) artist is free to create and in this case unify and lead. It is very much a sidekick role, helping to emphasize Huo’s moods and feelings at key times and also to act as his conscience when necessary. They are lifelong friends—Nong does Huo’s homework so that he can practice kung fu when they are children, tries to reason with him when he challenges Mr. Chin, gives him the money to go to Shanghai to fight Hercules O’Brien and sells his restaurant to finance the start up of the new martial arts movement. Dong Yong does all of this very well and creates a character the audience comes to like.

Betty Sun Li has a breathtakingly beautiful face which is all we see of her as Yueci (Moon in the subtitles). We love Yeuci from the beginning. She helps to rescue Huo, washes his hair, feeds him, fixes his mistakes while planting rice and feels bad when he leaves even though she knew from the beginning that he would. To top all of that, she is blind but accepts her condition without complaint. It would be difficult to do a bad job as Yueci and I look forward to seeing Betty Sun Li in a more challenging role.

Nathan Jones looks like he was having a great time as Hercules O’Brien, the Australian superheavyweight who beat all comers until he met Huo. He bounces around the ring like a World Wrestling Federation performer which he formerly was. Since this battle is as foreordained as the ones he formerly participated in as a professional wrestler, one can enjoy the comic relief that his scenes bring.

Nakamura Shiduo is perfect as Tanaka, the fourth of the four fighters that Huo faces in the fight that frames the movie. Huo’s life is told as a flashback between the last of the western fighters and Tanaka. Nakamura has a wonderful face—flattened nose, deeply set eyes and a look of menacing calm that seems natural. He moves with an easy grace and has real star power. He is completely believable as the conflicted martial artist who realizes too late that he has been tricked and is not fighting for the honor of his country but to continue the persecution of fellow Asians and for the private profit of Mr. Mito and his European cohorts.

It is clear from “Fearless” that Jet Li is well past his prime as an actor in action films. He is still very fit and athletic, has charisma to burn and makes on believe that he could defy the laws of physics with his moves. But it is also obvious that he is older and heavier than in the roles with which his public most identifies him. Unfortunately he isn’t a very good dramatic actor. Until now acting is what Jet Li did when he was not fighting and the audience would put up with painfully wooden line readings and barely appropriate expressions because we knew in a few minutes he would be beating up a platoon of bad guys. He simply doesn’t have the skill to star in a movie with little or no action and he is too big a star to play character roles. While other men have had very long and successful careers after they could no longer credibly fight it out onscreen—John Wayne leaps to mind—they were able to continue to do their signature maneuvers. Wayne, for instance, was able to hold a gun and shoot people until the very end. But the martial arts actor is much more limited in that he can’t depend on props like firearms (or CGI or constructive editing) to keep continue the magic—at least not for very long.

One example of his limited range is in the scene in which he is holding his the body of his just killed daughter. It is the kind of scene that even mediocre actors look forward to and can generally nail and that great actors sear into our memories. The actress playing the daughter’s nanny, shot over Jet Li’s shoulder, showed more emotion in her movement than he did in his close-ups.

In his favor, he is a seasoned movie performer for whom being in front of the camera seems to be second nature. He has a worldwide reputation that would allow him to take a couple of years off from the screen to plunge into learning the art and craft of acting and has millions of fans who want to see him succeed.

Very highly recommended.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/12/2006

In Fearless, Jet Li plays Chinese folk hero Huo Yuanjia, who became a legend after participating in a tournament devised by the encroaching Japanese in the hopes that it would highlight their view that Chinese people were "the sick men of Asia". Even though Huo ended his life being regarded as a valiant and heroic man, for most of it, he was in fact very cocky, using his kung fu skills to crush his competition at the cost of all those around him, and it is this, rather than fisticuffs, which is the main emphasis of Fearless.

For the most part, I really enjoyed Fearless. The fight scenes, while not being up to the level of Jet's work from the "golden age", are outstanding, especially when you consider Jet's age and injuries he has piled up over the years. This is probably also Jet's best work acting-wise. For quite possibly the first time in his career, he has eschwed the "goody-two-shoes" nature of the roles he usually takes and created something fully dimensionsial.

Fearless's main stumbling point occurs near the end of the second act, where Huo is humilated and goes off into the countryside. Eventually, he ends up in a village and falling in love, which gives him the inspiration to go back and fight, this time in the "right" way. There is nothing really wrong with the sequence per se, but it just takes far too long and kills a lot of momentum, especially since the viewer pretty much knows exactly what is going to happen.

But, thankfully, the film comes roaring back with a finale that contains one of the better sequences of fights (which are wonderfully CGI-free) that this reviewer has seen in quite some time. While Fearless isn't Jet's best movie ever, it is definitely much better than a lot of his recent work, and marks a fitting end to the end of his "traditional" kung fu movie career. If you're a martial arts fan, you will not be disappointed with this one.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: kiliansabre
Date: 09/10/2006
Summary: A Fond Farewell

Jet Li's latest and last martial arts epic follows the life of martial artist Huo Yuanjia, who vows to never lose in the ring. After an unwise error in judgement, Huo Yuanjia finds himself reevaluating his philosophy on fighting and life and returning to spread his beliefs and challenge those who pose a threat to his fellow china-men.

The fight scenes, choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping are solid and frequent and thought they effectively capure the flare of modern hong kong period piece cinema, they still lack the true impact of old school kung fu movies. If you aren't looking for that though and are happy with some less wire-work focused kung fu in the same vien of Once Upon a Time in China or Fong Sai Yuk, this will appeal to you. The character development is on par for the most part with the rest of Jet Li's period piece entries, even if the limit isn't pushed.

It seemed to me that the progression of character was a bit rushed, but perhaps it would have been too drawn out otherwise. Overall it's a shame if this truly is Jet Li's last martial arts performance, but a satisfactory send off if so.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 08/08/2006

For most of his career, Jet Li Lian-Jie has not generally done a lot for me in his lead roles--especially in his HK films. He's always been 'pretty good', but he just never seems to deliver that commanding screen presence that his roles demand. I think of OUATIC and KFCM, and what always comes to mind are the actors around Li that did more to make those films truly special than indeed Li did. A lot of it may simply be Li's personality and appearance. Some of it is very high expectations as Li's reputation preceeds him. By miles. He is essentially a living Chinese folk hero--as well he should be. But a great martial arts actor? Hardly.

I think that opinion started to change when I saw Zhang Yimou's 'Hero'. Here was a Mandarin film where Li played a role well suited for his appearance and personality--much more than when he played Fong Sai Yuk or Huang Fei Hong (to mix romanizations, as well as metaphors). And, maybe, in fact ironically, he seems better suited to playing these more morally nuanced characters.

So if Hero was Li's 'coming out' film for me, this film was certainly his payoff. Li has a screen presence here that has heretofore been unseen. We have a reasonably well developed three-dimensional character that we really care about. We have emotions. We have philosophy. We have...a story! That the film has martial arts sequences that are easily among the best choreographed of Li's and Yuen Wo-Ping's illustrious careers, respectively, is simply icing on the cake...and indeed is as expected.

This is Chinese martial arts cinema at its very best: a film that demands repeated viewings.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 07/01/2006
Summary: Movie of the year for 2006

JEt Li has done it again. People maybe getting sick of watching the same old fighting movies but this has a philosophical side to it, no doubt influenced but Jet Li's buddist beliefs!! YES, there is a moral to this story

Unfortuantely, the dvd i saw skipped and i missed a bit (10 minutes) of drama in the middle but that can be excused

Reading the other reviewers reviews, you can see that this movie is recommended by all and its easy to see why!! The blend of story with drama with wushu is perfectly done.

A MUSt SEE

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 03/29/2006
Summary: 10/10 - career highs all round

I honestly didn't think Jet Li had it in him to make a film as good as FIST OF LEGEND again... let alone one that's even better! FEARLESS proves me wrong, and is quite possibly the best film of Jet's career.

First of all, Jet's acting in Mandarin is a revelation... he's excellent, and the character fits him to a tee. He gets to show a much wider range of emotions than he's been able to in the past (certainly in his Hollywood films), and carries them all off with class. Better than he's ever been, by a wide margin.

Then the production values and the cinematography of the film are A++ - really beautiful, with scenes that approach the sheer aesthetic beauty of HERO... but without coming across as being so self-indulgent :p Great soundtrack too.

And the fight scenes... wow! The choreography is superlative (though Yuen Wo Ping gets caught out reusing ideas on occasion these days). The fights are mostly very intricate, complex and sophisticated, with a wide variety of styles being used as well. There are some really long takes, and Jet is as fast, agile and powerful as he's ever been - at least since the SHAOLIN TEMPLE films. The way they are filmed shows that it's possible to use "modern" camera work and editing (and even a dash of CGI) without rendering the action incoherenent or destroying the flow and impact. It's been a long while since we've seen fights this well choreographed, filmed and performed.

The story of Huo Yuan Jia's quest to become the number one fighter, and his self-discovery and enlightenment as to the "true" nature of martial arts, is simple but nicely handled. It continues the progression towards maturity, wisdom and compassion that flows from FIST OF FURY through FIST OF LEGEND (to which FEARLESS is essentially a prequel). I think FEARLESS reflects a lot more of Jet Li's personal views and philosophy than any of his previous works have done - this is apparently the reason why he has said this will be his last period martial arts film, because it says all he has to say through that particular medium. It's a shame, and I hope he changes his mind, because FEARLESS is a triumphant return for Jet Li, and it's hard to imagine him being happy to make more crap like CRADLE2THEGRAVE after something like this!

It's also a triumphant return for Ronny Yu, who has also been stuck making Hollywood crap for far too many years. He must have learnt something along the way, or perhaps just stored up all his energy and ideas to unleash in FEARLESS. This is his best work too, in my opinion - or at least equal with BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR. Even cinematographer Poon Hang-Sang can count this amongst his best work.

Basically there is no aspect of FEARLESS to which I would give less than full marks - it's something I didn't expect to see the likes of again - i.e. one of the best martial arts films ever made :)

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: steveonkeys
Date: 03/27/2006
Summary: Jet Li's Best Since Fist of Legend

This is a beautifully shot, beautifully directed, beautifully choreographed and well acted martial arts movie. It is a true return to the genre which made Li, and while it doesn't measure up to his greatest films, it truly recalls their spirit.
If there is a great shortcoming in "Fearless," it's the script, which lopsidedly groups most of the exquisite fighting in the first half of the film, and relies on an underdeveloped romance storyline and plodding, repetitive lessons in "martial arts morality" to fill the hour leading up to the climactic fight, which is a minor action sequence compared to the early-on blowouts.
Those who already know the story of Fok Yuen Gap know the film's ending and understand that it makes for an unconventional "kung fu" story arc. I think that the genre would have benefited from more varied plotlines in the last three decades, and perhaps filmmakers would have nailed how to make such a story as "Fearless" as compelling from the action standpoint as a classic revenge tale, or even a mature and socially conscious revenge tale like so many of Jet Li's other movies. Unfortunately, I don't believe it has been done yet, and "Fearless" can't deliver on the sheer excitement I expected from Li's last martial arts movie. It's still a great looking flick with great action and decent non-fighting elements. 8/10 - S.M.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 03/21/2006
Summary: Stunningly compelling

Jet Li, Jet Li. How I missed thee. When my journey began, I used to find a new movie from your 90s glory every week, and I loved them all. (Then you started making crap one after another :p). Now in the year 2006 you are back with FEARLESS aka HUO YUAN JIA. I have only seen 25 of your 30 Chinese films, but I believe FEARLESS is arguably the most solid achievement... of your film career. Way to go, champ.

Of course, I have only watched FEARLESS once, so I don't know if this opinion about its superiority will hold in due time. Anyway, here's something else you need to know: the current official release of this film is CUT about 40 minutes due to "professionals in the field" complaining about redundant footage at various screenings. In particular, Michelle Yeoh, who attracted the second highest billing, has been completely removed from the movie, and there is not a trace of her character in the final cut. Even so, I think the film gets its point across: Chinese martial arts rock. :p More seriously, martial arts constitute training for the body, the mind, and morals; Martial arts should be used to help, not to provoke.

What pleasantly surprised me about this movie is the superior characterization of Huo Yuanjia the protagonist. Jet Li's career really took off when he starred as Wong Fei Hung the faultless national hero. Huo Yuanjia can be considered a fellow national hero next to Wong Fei Hung, but here Jet Li grants much more depth to the character. Huo Yuanjia was not born Mr. Do-the-right-thing, and he learned the proper path the hard way -- from mistakes. Huo Yuanjia's transformation is painfully and RAWly traced, which really stands out from the rather flawless characters that Jet Li has played during his career.

Another surely differentiating factor from other Jet Li films is the theme song. Here Jay Chou mixes his usual pop beats with CHINESE OPERA-style singing!!!!!!!! And guess what, the result is annoying at first but it sinks through quickly.

In case you are wondering, the fighting is TOP NOTCH, definitely among Jet Li's best, with very few wire work compared to movies like FONG SAI YUK. Fights involve weapon as well as empty hands. Personally, I prefer the weapon fights in this movie. Strangely to me, the fighting style and the occasionally "shifty" camera recalls the finale of Corey Yuen's SO CLOSE, which is maybe the greatest compliment that movie will ever receive.

My biggest (and only?) complaint is the choppy editing at times. 2 American editors were hired to do the job, and they incorporated some extremely poorly done "suddenly fast then suddenly slow motions" during key fight scenes, which I found distracting and of poor taste. This kind of editing can be spotted throughout Andrew Lau's THE DUEL (2000); the difference is that it worked for that movie's fantasy orientation, but here I just find it done much poorly.

FEARLESS is not quite perfect a film. However, Jet Li's good intentions to promote Chinese martial arts are perfectly welcome, as is his energetic effort to make his last martial arts movie an unforgettable experience.

[9/10]

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: evirei
Date: 03/14/2006
Summary: That's the spirit!

A lot of disturbing remarks and overload of information is buzzing around me. It’s been said to be Jet Li’s last martial art movie. Yes, it seems like he wants to end his martial art career and venture into something else. There were even news that the originally 143 minutes movie was cut to 103 minutes to fit the market. Yes, good 40 minutes being cut here and there.

A story set back in early 1900’s where China was invaded by western powers and the Japanese power is constantly growing in China. China is known as the “Asia’s weakest country”.

In this movie, Jet Li portrays the life of a martial art master Huo Yuen Jia (Huo). In his younger days, Huo was a weak child where asthma constantly strikes him. His dad, a great martial art master refuses to teach him martial arts due to his health condition. Huo secretly hide and peek at his dad each time his dad is practicing. One day, some guy challenged Huo’s dad. Supposedly Huo’s dad could win if he continues to attack, however he never did so which results him to lose. Huo was then upset and determine to learn martial arts to revenge.

*spoiler alert* Okay, I didn’t know how, who or when did Huo learnt his martial art skills. Yeah.. there were no indication of how, who and when did he learn it from. The movie just cut and jumps to where Huo has grown up, even have a daughter. At that point of time, all that matters to him is to be “TianJin No. 1”. He constantly challenges everyone to prove that he is the best of the best. Everything went on fine until one day, he killed someone in the challenge due to a misunderstanding. This challenge has caused him his families life. What is worst is when he found out the truth behind what had happen.

Huo then travel around and finally tries to drown himself. However, a blind girl and her grandma saved him. Huo then stays there and slowly learns and adapt to their culture. There, Huo also learns to be more patient and learnt that winning is not everything. He soon leaves the village and decided to travel back to where he belong only to find that everything has changed.

The place he used to live in was a big mess, the town was being invaded by westerners. Drugs, opium and westerners were seen everywhere. He finally knows that going around picking for fights is not the right thing to do and he decided to fight for the nation. *Yeay! Way to go Jet~*

The movie then zoom back to the starting scene where Huo is fighting against 4 foreigners. I like the ending. As in, it softly portrays how Chinese strikes back to prove to the world we are not “Asia’s weakest country”. I like how they hint how the Japanese was being used to fight against own Asian countries.

As a whole, I think it has a great package. Great Jet Li as the lead, room for lots of stunts to happen, attention to details (especially the sword fighting scene where the knives got blunted). Yeah what can I say, action to the MAX! But I must say there are lack of development in the storyline. I dun blame them, 40 minutes of the show gone down the drain.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: bierce
Date: 02/14/2006
Summary: Huo Yan Jia! Huo Yan Jia!

I was fortunate enough to be able to watch this in Taiwan during Chinese New Year before I returned to the States. For some reason I was skeptical going into the movie, but it proved to be better than expected. It takes time to develop the melodramatic storyline (despite starting right off with many crowd pleasing martial arts duels), but then soon hits its stride up to a emotional finish. It did end up clocking in at around an hour and a half --always a plus in my book
The fight scenes as with all Yuen Huoping's works are excellent, but had the intrusion of digital effects at some points, which I personally dislike. It was also refreshing to see Jet Li again playing a character other than his stoic tough guy that he does in U.S. films--as he has underrated acting range in his most famous films (Swordsman 2/Wong Fei Hong/Fong Sai Yuk, Etc.) Hopefully Jet Li will not let this be his last martial arts film--he seems much younger than his age and it would be great to see him do more of them. Certainly recommended, and it is a must see for fans of Jet Li--if not solely for the fact of it being possibly his last martial arts movie.

(Note: Michelle Yeoh is not in the version I saw--perhaps her scenes will remain in other countries releases, or a DVD release)

Reviewer Score: 8