Action (Martial Arts)
Running Time: 104 minutes
Starring: Jet Li
Directed By: Ronny Yu
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
This is the story (Based on) Huo Yuanjia as he fights for his country’s honor against the invading foreign presence.
There is a long standing curse with martial arts movies that they are afflicted with storylines that to put it mildly are crap. All the cool fighting gets bogged down by lame characters and predictable plot. I am not saying the story in this movie is great but it certainly is better than most martial arts films that I have seen. Fearless is based on the real life of Huo Yuanjia a master martial artist. It details his life from childhood to adulthood as he became a national hero to many Chinese people during a turbulent time in that country’s history.
This is a rare movie where the story actually keeps up with the quality of the fighting. While Huo’s childhood years are a slow and needless watch they don’t spend much time on this time period which is key. The film quickly fast forwards to his middle age years and this is where the movie is at its best. Huo’s goal is to be the best martial arts fighter in the city and takes on all challengers. He fights them on the top of scaffolding, he fights them in a stone dueling circle, and he battles them in public. The fights have long unedited portions that allow you to enjoy the action. The use of ropes is gratuitous at points and takes out some of the realism to the duels but really who doesn’t like rope work in martial arts movies? The story itself is touching and I found myself getting into it even though it was nothing special. There is something so intriguing about people learning the life lesson of you have to lose everything to truly appreciate who you should be. Huo’s story can be boring but it is also heart wrenching making it a film that doesn’t just punch its way to a good rating.
Huo Yuanjia is played by the iconic martial arts star Jet Li. He shows some emotional range in this film as he deals with success, heartbreak, love, despair, and death. He not only is in a select group as a top martial arts action star he delivers time and again in this film. His fighting sequences are crisp and high impact and he brings a little depth to a genre desperate for story.
While the movie has a moderate amount of great fight scenes I still found it could have used a little more. A fight scene where Huo fights a rival in a restaurant with swords is the high point of this film. A giant restaurant is destroyed to great effect and yet it happens half way through the film. So the second half of the film drags and is disappointing as it tries to recapture the magic of the restaurant scene. They try to augment this slow aspect with a cool element of introducing foreign fighters into the mix. Huo must fight a huge American wrestler and a British fencer and a bunch of other top fighters. Incorporating things like swords and spears into the fights gives this film a little more edge but doesn't recapture the magic of the start. This battle for Chinese honor is cool but a lot of the fighting is too abrupt and feels unfinished. As the film makes its way to the end fight scene I had mixed feelings about how the movie concludes. A film begging for an end fight scene for the ages kind of fizzles instead of pops. The emotional journey of Huo from zero to hero and most of the fighting makes this film a good watch though so fight through my criticisms and you should be pleased.
Director Ronny Yu should stick to martial arts movies. As the guy behind such brilliant films as Bride of Chucky and Freddy vs. Jason he seems to understand what people want in karate movies. He uses cool camera angles and long unedited shots to make this film enjoyable. It is an interesting story (Chow, To) that brings out the best and worst of a man searching for his place in the world. The first half of the movie is way better then the second but still this is a solid entry to the martial arts world.
I give this movie a recommendation especially to people who like a little story with their martial arts.
T Factor + If you are a fan of Jet Li then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you do not like martial arts this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Ip Man, The Magnificent Butcher.